The Flying Dutchman
Budget for this Design Area
Comments by the Designer
The Flying Dutchman is a German-language opera that was written by Richard Wagner and first premiered in 1843. The opera follows the sea captain Daland’s daughter, and her journey being traded by her father, to the Dutchman, for a reward of treasure. Senta struggles between her love for Erik a huntsman, and her infatuation with the Dutchman. In the end, she swears her faithful love to the Dutchman, throwing herself into the sea, and together they ascend to heaven.
I designed this show as a project in my Costume Design III class during my third semester of graduate school. While working on the design for this project I was very interested in creating costumes that were based in the Victorian period but had a contemporary twist. I drew modern inspiration from the 1990s English punk and gothic movements. Observing the use of leather and chains, I felt that these punk elements could add a modern edge and make the story more relatable to in our modern day. I also found this research helpful in separating the Dutchman’s crew, who wore black leather, and clothing inspired by different cultures, while the people from the land (Senta, Dalland, Erik, etc.) wore brown leathers, and were based more wholly in England. I also tried to keep the color palette quite muted, overall, to help keep a unified overall design, while still being able to distinguish characters.
The only character who changes throughout the time of the opera is Senta. She can be seen in a layered skirt, with a deep red bustle over skirt. More than any other character from the land, she has many leather straps, and a black corset, which separate her from the female chorus. Creating this costume that is living in between the two established worlds shows how she as a character is different than the other women; she is not as settled and satisfied in life. Senta’s costume makes her stand out against the other characters, drawing focus to her actions. When Santa meets the Dutchman, pledging her life and love to him, she slowly starts to lose layers of her skirt, revealing a dark teal pair of pants, evoking a color similar to his jacket. This color relationship is important in her transition from someone who lives and works on land, to joining the Dutchman’s crewing and standing faithfully by his side.
Overall, this project allowed me to explore creating a unique take on a traditional time period, as well as how to work with a limited color palette. Designing this show stretched my creativity and helped me focus on how small details and colors could create a division of characters on the stage.
Copyright 2020 Chelsea June