Vocalist - Soprano
Opera Boston takes aim at Weber's 'Der Freischutz'
Carl Maria von Weber's opera "Der Freischütz" looms large in music history as a cornerstone of German Romantic opera. It was a great influence on many 19th-century composers and has remained a favorite among German audiences, more or less, since its premiere in Berlin in 1821. Even today it is a staple in most central European houses.

But on this side of the Atlantic, it is an opera more heard about than heard, at least in live performance. Locally, it has not been staged since 1984. Sure, the plot - about Max the marksman and his bid to win a shooting competition and the hand of his beloved Agathe - feels dusty and the long stretches of spoken German present extra dramatic challenges, but the music of "Der Freischütz" is utterly inspired - full of energy, clarity, imagination, and beauty.

For all of these reasons, Opera Boston deserves real credit for bringing this work back before the public. Last night at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, the company introduced a credibly sung new staging, to be performed again tomorrow and Tuesday. If you go, however, it may be best to concentrate on the music. The production by Sam Helfrich is a confused jumble that seems to undermine the work's fundamental spirit.

The director and his creative team have chosen to update the opera to run as a kind of shadowy modern-day psychological fairy tale, a story that reveals dark subconscious truths about human nature. To reinforce his understanding of Friederich Kind's libretto, Helfrich has cast the same singer in the role of both the demonic Samiel and the mysterious Hermit figure. And the supposedly terrifying Wolf's Glen scene becomes a series of degradations for Max, sexual and psychological. It's not very convincing, nor more problematically, does it bear any organic connection to Weber's score. Yes the opera takes place in the woods, and there are brushes with the supernatural, but Weber's music in its essence could not be more open and sincere. Certain German works may beg for this brand of interiorized psychodrama treatment. For me at least, this is not one of them.

As Max, Daniel Snyder gave a solid performance, singing at times with ardency though his acting was rather stiff. Emily Pulley brought a lovely tone and some attractive phrasing to the role of Agathe. Heather Buck sang Annchen with dexterity and sparkle. Andrew Funk sang well and had a persuasive presence as the sinister Kaspar. Herbert Perry made a good vocal impression in his modest contribution as the Hermit. So did David Kravitz as Ottokar. Aaron Engebreth and Tom O'Toole were both capable as Killian and Kuno, respectively.

Gil Rose and the orchestra still conveyed the measure of this work with eloquence and grace. The solo contributions of cellist David Russell and violist Kate Vincent were worthy of special note. The chorus sounded earthy, robust, and full.
Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe
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