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Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write the opera following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839. In his 1843 Autobiographic Sketch, Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from Heinrich Heine's retelling of the legend in his 1833 satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski). The central theme is redemption through love.
This is an awesome opera and one of my favorites. I think Beethoven would have liked this opera at least with the redemption ending. The Hollander has become the second largest in my opera collection with 18 recordings on CD, only surpassed by Fidelio at 24 recordings.
"Pray heaven that soon a wife will keep faith with him!" Senta speaking of the Hollander.