Der Freischütz review - The Australian

In an unusually early start to Melbourne’s 2015 opera season, Melbourne Opera premiered a new production of Weber’s masterwork Der Freischutz (The Marksman, more usually translated as The Freeshooter). The opera was last staged in Melbourne 46 years ago by the former Victorian Opera Company.

The story of human aspirations and frailties is set in a Bohemian village at the end of the 30 Years’ War.

But Weber’s big dramatic surprises were the dangerous unpredictability of nature and the supernatural forces at work in the famous Wolf’s Glen scene, the eerie moment when the anguished hero, Max, enters into a satanic pact to ensure that he will win the hand of his beloved.

David Kram conducted an idiomatic performance, sung in English, with a fine orchestra and chorus. He sustained the powerful ebb and flow of the opera’s shifting moods and offered impressive support to his soloists.

Suzanne Chaundy’s direction was tremendously imaginative and heightened the drama of the entire performance. She drew on the compelling if unnerving imagery of the Expressionist movement of the early 20th century, especially the sinister imagery of such silent films as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

She was greatly assisted by set designer Christina Logan-Bell, with Scott Allan’s lighting and Zoe Scoglio’s video artistry. Daniel Harvey designed the effective costumes.

Jason Wasley gave the most impressive performance I have heard from him in the role of Max, the challenged rifleman who faces losing his beloved, Agathe, if he can’t win the following day’s shooting contest.

Agathe was beautifully sung by soprano Sally Wilson, offering a particularly impressive second act aria. Her innocent, untroubled companion Aennchen, blissfully unaware of Agathe’s anxiety, was delightfully portrayed by Andrea Creighton in an audience-winning appearance.

Steven Gallop, Max’s rival for Agathe, made a powerful impact as the menacing Caspar, a hunter who, having already sold his soul to the devil, in the person of a shadowy Samiel, is intent on exchanging Max’s soul for his own. Popular MO regular Roger Howell sang the contrasting roles of both the wicked Samiel and a holy man, the Hermit.

Read the whole article by Peter Burch:

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