When first drafting The Flying Dutchman, Richard Wagner initially wanted to call the opera “a dramatic ballad” instead. In its final version the opera is indeed arranged around a ballad that contains and compresses in miniature much of the thematic and musical material of the three acts that surround it. At the same time, Wagner lets Senta's haunting ballad hover over his opera and make it more complicated. The Flying Dutchman offers a theory of the opera as an extended ballad and of the ballad as a compressed opera. But rather than legitimating the sort of aesthetic nationalism Wagner would become famous for, this pairing of forms leaves both more strange and overdetermined than they may at first glance appear.