Weber’s “Freischütz” tells the story of the young Max, who is teased because of his love to Agathe and his failure at the village shooting contest. But Max’ biggest problem is that the winner of the shooting tournament gets to marry his beloved Agathe. In despair he asks his friend Kaspar for advice. Kaspar suggests they could go into the “Wolf Glenn” together so the devil that appears there could get him a “Freikugel”. With a “Freikugel” you are able to shoot at anything you want and never miss. Of course Max is afraid of the “Wolf Glenn” but for his beloved Agathe, he will even deal with the devil. Kaspar secretly triumphs because he has once again brought the devil a new victim, but on Competition Day Max accidently kills the bad Kaspar and God forgives him for his mistake. Now, he can finally marry his beloved Agathe.
Isn’t this story great for an opera? What director Herbert Fritsch brought on stage is in my view anything but great. Flash colors meet the stage…Video projections of circles distract from the whole musical power of this wonderful overture…Max is haunted by a group of shrill and disturbed villagers in gaudy robes. He seems to be the only normal person in this crazy little world, who reminds me of a doll house. But as soon as it comes to speaking , we all know that he is not normal either. Every character seems to come straight out of the madhouse. Fritsch combined this with constant slapstick and a stage set that at times serves as church at times as a dollhouse. Towards the end before the interval in the “Wolf Glenns” scene you get the feeling that Fritsch is making fun of the whole Opera and even of Weber’s great music. His perturbed version and this constant slapstick steer totally from the essential……the music. Some people already started booing after this scene. A little more respect of Weber’s music, please Mr. Fritsch.
At least the musical performances were gratifying. Above all the absolutely talented Lise Davidsen, who sung the role of Agathe. Her wonderfully warm voice filled the whole auditorium without effort. Her beautiful timbre evident, especially in her first aria in the second act. Her really powerful voice is maybe a bit too powerful for the little opera house in Zurich but I’m sure, she is going to be a wonderful Strauss or Wagner singer. Thunderous applause for Davidsen! Christopher Ventris is a great Heldentenor, perfect for the role of Max. His voice has a wonderful medium location and he mastered all the high tones. Unfortunately he had some problems with the text in German. His pronunciation was almost incomprehensible (Pavel Daniluk, who sung the role of Kuno had the same problems). Melissa Petit was very lively and she had a really clear soprano, but you could barely hear her over the orchestra in the fortissimo passages. Christof Fischesser, who was recovering from severe bronchitis sung the role of Kaspar with such authority, that you could hardly believe that he was, or is still ill. Bravo! Wenwei Zhang’s deep bass was a great example, how a good “Eremit” has to be and Oliver Widmer sung a well Fürst Ottokar.
Marc Albrecht had prepared every detail of the score down to the last phrase and you could hear that there was a lot of work behind it. Unfortunately, the focus of this production was entirely the provocative staging. However, it also lacked cohesion between the orchestra pit and the stage. For example the Choir (Well prepared by Jürg Hämmerli) did not always cooperate well with the orchestra and the sometimes had problems with the rhythm.
At the end there was thunderous applause for all the musicians and a fight between “bravos” and massive “boos” for Fritsch and his team.
I am not against modern staging but I want a little more reverence and respect for Weber’s music.