No. 1 (Introduction): A ship full of men has run ashore in a "steely" bay. Their leader Donald orders his exhausted men to rest and demands of his helmsman to keep his men entertained. His song frightens them and they sink to the ground, utterly worn out. Only one man stays awake: it is the Dutchman.
No. 2 (Aria): The Dutchman gives an account of his restless live: He has been condemned to the misery of eternally wandering and roaming the seas whilst longing for death.
No. 3 (Scene, duet and choir): Donald confronts the stranger and the Dutchman hesitantly answers him: Up to now he has been aimlessly wandering around for countless years, always in search for a place to call his home. Money and possessions of any kind do not mean anything to him any longer. Once he has found out about Donald's daughter, the Dutchman desires to marry her and offers Donald a barter transaction - money in exchange for the woman. Donald readily agrees as he has only got eyes for the money.
No. 4 (Song, scene, ballad and choir): The women back home are delighted about their husbands' presents. Senta, however, is unable to share the delight, as she longs to talk more about the Dutchman's fate and by doing so, works herself more and more into a state of frenzy, until, in a final and ecstatic outburst, she sees herself as the only one able to redeem the Dutchman. The other women around her are shocked. At that moment Georg arrives.
No. 5 (Duet): Distraught he reveals his sorrow, but Senta wards him off. When he warningly informs her about his nightmare in which Senta flees with the Dutchman, she is again in raptures: she alone will redeem the unhappy soul and perish with him!
No. 6 (Aria, duet and terzett): Donald enters the scene and announces the Dutchman to be Senta's bridegroom. He then departs leaving the two to themselves. The Dutchman recognizes in Senta his own destiny, whilst she is attracted to him and pledges eternal love and faith.
No. 7 (Choir and ensemble): At the Helmsman's behest the men celebrate and start to sing and be merry. The women join in. Whilst making fun of the silently watching Dutchman, they demand of him to join in as well. But only silence from the depth of the room answers them. Suddenly, however, there is light and an invisible choir can be heard, whose singing gets louder and louder. The men are unable to hold against it, they are perturbed and full of panic.
No. 8 (Duet, cavatina, finale): Senta and the Dutchman await their fate, Georg follows them. He demands of Senta to leave the Dutchman, but she withdraws. But it is too late - the Dutchman interrupts their conversation: he believes that Senta has betrayed him. She in return urges him to have trust in her. He reminds her of his curse, but Senta succeeds in convincing the Dutchman to face death together.