Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz combines musical beauty, dramatic power, and a stimulating plot to create a complete whole. In so doing it led the way in the development of 19th century German opera, particularly through its fusing of different genres and its enhancement of the dramatic power of the orchestra.
The opera has often been associated with issues of German nationalism because of the plot’s allusions to the German countryside and the ‘Volk’. Max, a young German forester who wants to marry Agathe, is the key character. In order to marry Agathe, Max must win a shooting context. After an unsuccessful trial, which takes place over the opening orchestral music ‘Viktoria’, Max is convinced by Caspar to follow him into the Wolf’s Glen. There they cast several magic bullets for the contest the following day with the direction of the seventh bullet determined by Samiel, the devil-like figure who Caspar calls upon in the thrilling Wolf’s Glen scene. Meanwhile Agathe - with her maid, Ännchen - is anxiously contemplating her upcoming marriage. Agathe acts as the antithesis to Caspar and Samiel as she represents purity. Agathe is particularly concerned when she hears that Max will go into the Wolf’s Glen, as can be heard in the trio ‘Wie? Was? Entsetzen!’ The opera climaxes at the competition when, as Max takes aim and shoots, Agathe falls to the ground. Everyone believes she has been killed; however, it turns out she has only fainted. Despite this, the local Prince Ottakar, shocked by Max’s dealings with Caspar and Samiel, banishes the young lovers. Max and Agathe are saved at the last minute by the Hermit who arrives at the beginning of the finale in this recording. He argues that they should be given a probationary year and, if they behave, they may marry. He also insists that the shooting contest should be stopped forever more. The opera ends happily with the hope of better times ahead.
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge affect on opera, including in Cambridge. As a result of social distancing and lockdowns, we made the decision to make this project a fully digital production which meant recording the opera over three days in West Road Concert Hall. Whilst it was disappointing not to produce Der Freischütz fully, recording offered further opportunities, not least being able to produce a professional standard recording. The recording process was a challenging but engaging task for us all and it was wonderful to be able to work in such close detail to create a recording of such high calibre.