Der Freischütz (usually translated as The Marksman or The Freeshooter) is an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. And, as far as I can tell, it is rarely performed. I like it, I like Weber. I once read a description of him being the link between Donizetti and Wagner, which I think has a plausibility to it, even though it probably wouldn't stand up to scrutiny, and is probably quite meaningless anyway.
This was a concert performance, at the Barbican and I attended it over two weeks ago. I suppose I should have written my blogpost at the time, in order to capture and reflect upon nuances, memorable moments. But, in truth, I don't think I have lost anything by being slow. It was a lovely and enjoyable. But memorable, no. In a good way and a not so good way. It was a concert performance, for all the advantages and disadvantages that offers. Advantages being that it actually gets to be performed, and isn't ruined by a dull, over-literal stage production. Although, on the way in I overheard someone say that they had seen it and there was an actual wild boar on stage, so no production I ever see is ever going to live up to that!
Another advantage is that they can get exceptional singers like Christine Brewer and Simon O'Neill to perform. I don't believe I've ever seen either of them in staged opera, but by all accounts Simon O'Neill isn't a natural actor, and Christine Brewer, well, her stage demeanour is constantly one of disengagement, even though she usually sounds divine. The disadvantages are, well, opera was written to be performed on stage; concert performances, like audio recordings, are a compromise. Limited rehearsal time signals a lack of familiarity with the interior of the score - although, conversely, works performed frequently can sound routine and thoughtless.
Falk Struckmann was scheduled to sing the other main role, but withdrew due to illness after the programme was printed, and replaced by Lars Woldt, whose circulated biography listed no previous appearances in the UK. I think I probably enjoyed him most of all the singers; presumably he was engaged due to his familiarity with the role, ironically.
As I say, it was an all round enjoyable performance, with nothing standing out either as being profoundly moving or unfortunate. The LSO Chorus were in top form, and it was wonderful to see Colin Davis's lively conducting, at the age of 84. He sat down to conduct, but obstinately refused well-intentioned good mannered offers from both Simon O'Neill and Marcus Farnworth to assist him up and down the stairs to the stage. To be honest, Christine Brewer, nearly thirty years younger, had greater mobility problems. I was sat in the extreme left wing of the hall, just a few rows from the front. One notices these things.
Musically, it's a lovely work. Afterwards, I remarked in jest that it only has one tune. Of course this isn't strictly true, but, nevertheless, there is one theme that dominates again and again. And it's a tune I love. The story could be seen as being very silly - being a folk myth and supernatural, but I think the librettists carries it off, and the music makes it worthwhile.
All round sound vocal performances, although I felt Christine Brewer didn't sound as solid as I normally hear her, and Simon O'Neill's voice, though pleasant to my ears, didn't move me. But, ultimately, they just stood there, with no attempt to portray the characters, move around or interact. Which was a shame. But did not spoil the musical performance.
tacky sound effects... struck an incongruous note and achieved a great deal less, one couldn’t help thinking, than the decision to dim the lights a little might have done.
One did think that, and thought the attempt at a thunderstorm compared unfavourably with that offered outside by Nature!