Weber’s masterwork, “Der Freischütz,” gets a fresh (and rare) revival at Wolf Trap

Sun Jun 19, 2022 at 1:56 pm
By Patrick D. McCoy

Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz runs through June 26 at Wolf Trap.

Typically, when one thinks about the great love stories portrayed on opera stages, in the forefront are the works of Mozart, Puccini or Donizetti. 

Carl Maria von Weber is probably not at the top of the list, but he should hold a place of high esteem for Der Freischütz.  Considered the first German romantic opera, this three-act work opera opened in its Wolf Trap premiere Saturday night.

The variety of music and drama throughout the opera certainly asserts why it deserves to be a regularly performed offering in the operatic canon. Der Freischütz (The Huntsman) has it all: love, betrayal, ego and vindictiveness.

Shots are fired, looming skulls appear and outright debauchery envelops this dark love story.

Act I unfolds with the title marksman Max losing a shooting contest to peasant Killan. As he is taunted by Killan, sung by bass-baritone David Weigel, the orchestra brass seemed to emphasize the taunting in its ‘response.’ To add further insult to injury, the opera chorus triumphantly resounds in a chorus of victory. 

In the role of Max, tenor Robert Stahley used his voice with fine aplomb to capture the complexity of his character. His clarion full tenor rang out to express his frustration in a lyric legato to express his affection for Agathe. 

The opera also contains numerous ensemble pieces. Weigel sang with great resonance and together with tenor Robert Stahley created a wonderful tension that was felt as the plot progressed. As Cuno, bass-baritone Dylan Gregg was a formidable voice and brought a unique presence to the dramatic arc of the plot.

At the center of the story is Agathe. Sung by soprano Alexandria Shiner, there was an innocence about this heroine yet a sense of confidence. Vocally, Shiner soared and shimmered throughout the evening. There was great clarity and expressive beauty in her delivery, which she used to careful effect in the intimate space of the Barns at Wolf Trap.

The mayhem of the evening is wreaked by the duplicitous Caspar. Bass Cory McGee was a powerful force as he brought everyone into his web of deception. His voice was solid throughout the evening and delivered the dark, sinister nature of his character.

The “comic relief” is supplied by the character of Ännchen sung by soprano Sunwoo Park. With a shimmering light soprano, Park was able to capture the coy, yet sincere nature of her gestures towards Agathe. 

As the head bridesmaid, mezzo-soprano Tessa Fackelmann, was vocally charming as she corrals all of the other bridesmaids in the ‘joy’ of the occasion. Tshegofatso Clement Baloyi showed elegance and vocal prowess in the brief role of Ottokar.

Lidiya Yankovskaya brought a unified blend between the orchestra and the singers. From the overture, she established the dynamics and tempi of the orchestra with a close beat, not bringing attention to herself but drawing the musicians into her interpretation of the music. Beginning with lots of unison strings, the music came more animated, setting up the excitement for the action that followed.

Der Freischütz runs through June 26.

Patrick D. McCoy is a choral conductor, singer and music journalist. A native of Petersburg, Virgina. He has covered the arts for several outlets, including The Washington Post, Prince George’s Suite Magazine, The Afro American Newspaper, CBS Washington, Early Music America, and ArtSong Update, among others.

Currently, he serves on the music faculty at Virginia State University, where he is the Interim Director of Choral Activities/Instructor of Voice and Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Beltsville, MD.

Leave a Comment


 Subscribe via RSS