Review: DER FRIESCHUTZ (The Marksman)

by Lynn on November 3, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Elgin Theatre until November 3. Composed by Carl Maria Von Weber. Libretto by Johann Friedrich Kind. Directed by Marshall Pynkoski. Conducted by David Fallis. Choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg. Set by Gerard Gauci. Costumes by Martha Mann. Lighting by Bonnie Beecher. Projections by Raha Javanfar. Starring: Gustav Andreassen, Vasil Garvanliev, Carla Huhtanen, Oliver LaQuerre, Meghan Lindsay, Michael Nyby, Krešimir Špicer, Curtis Sullivan.

Produced by Opera Atelier

Going to an Opera Atelier production (as I did tonight, Nov 2), is always a bracing, welcome experience in an art form I’m getting more familiar with—Opera. The company has such high standards—thanks to its co-artistic directors Marshal Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg—that I’m always intrigued to see what they are producing and so willing to enter into that mysterious world. The world of the Baroque has given way to the world of the Romantic era. This is a company that explores their world deeply and has developed and expanded that world.

Der Freischűtz (The Marksman) is their latest case in point. It is part fairy tale, part morality tale. Max is the marksman of the title, and he’s lost his sharp shooting. He is about to be married to Agathe, the daughter of the head forester. But first he must show his prowess as a marksman and pass a trial of sharpshooting. For several weeks he has not actually shot anything. He’s desperate to get his shooting prowess back so he falls under the destructive spell of Kaspar, a strange villager who promises him magic bullets. Kaspar is in turn beholding to the Devil for more souls and by promising Max the magic bullets, the Devil (known as Samiel) can get Max’s soul. Max is given seven bullets. The last one will prove fatal either to Agathe or to Kaspar. Samiel will decide.

Der Freischűtz (The Marksman) is an opera of huge emotions, moral dilemmas, wisdom, just retribution and forgiveness. Opera seems the proper art form to handle such hugeness. Combining the exquisite taste of director Marshall Pynkoski and of choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, they and their design team create a world of beauty, grace, foreboding, and heightened emotions on both ends of the spectrum (from euphoria to despair).

As is always the case with an Opera Atelier production it is equal parts opera and ballet. The extensive program notes comment on the gestural nature of the ballet and the precise posses of the singers. Pynkoski and Zingg have studied paintings of the period to create that authentic look. What once looked stilted to me now looks proper and right.

Gerard Gauci’s set is both ornate and spare and the result takes us into a world of riches, colour and elegance. Martha Mann’s costumes are also sumptuous. I would not be comfortable commenting on the singing (a bit wobbly in some cases) or the dancing, I can deal with the theatricality of it. The relationship of Max (Krešimir Špicer) and Agathe (Meghan Lindsay) is well established. As Äanchen, Agathe’s friend, Carla Huhtanen, a stalwart of Opera Atelier, is impish, funny, and charming. Samiel played by Curtis Sullivan, who rises up from the depths, is a startling mass of chiselled muscle wearing what looks to be nothing, but definitely is something.

For me, generally a stranger to opera, Opera Atelier affords me the chance to open my theatre world. Their next production will be The Magic Flute, which Marshall Pynkoski said at his speech before the show, is a perfect introduction to opera for children as well as adults. I look forward to that one, as I always do an Opera Atelier production.

Der Freischűtz (The Marksman) plays at the Elgin Theatre until November 3, 2012.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.