THE SCOTSMAN, 18 August 2004
By Kenneth Walton
von Weber: Der Freischütz, Edinburgh, 17 August 2004
Der Freischütz
IT IS probably for the better that the Edinburgh Festival is presenting its trilogy of Weber operas as concert performances. On balance, Weber's most consistent operatic achievement was the music he wrote for Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon.

And that's where the focus lay in last night's opening performance of Der Freischüz - ironically the one Weber opera that has stood the full test of time as an undisputed stageable masterpiece.

This performance's only concession to obvious dramatisation was the use of electronic gunshots to fire the all important magic bullets, and the booming off-stage voice of an
amplified Samiel.

But what a team the Festival put together to deliver it. At the helm, the inveterate Sir Charles Mackerras not only exercised his customary briskness, but knitted Weber's rich tapestry of scenes into a riveting piece of aural theatre.

From the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorus he drew a solid nucleus of sound. Everything about the SCO's playing was crisp and vibrant, but also electrifyingly fearsome in the famous Wolf Glen scene, with all its eerie premonitions of Wagner.

The chorus played its part with penetrating theatricality, singing with a real sense of focus and involvement.

None of this would have worked, though, without a cast fully gripped by the elevated romanticism of the drama. These characters, you could believe in.

Jonas Kaufmann's Max was every bit the dashing tenor, packed with sensitivity, if occasionally understated. The probing menace of John Relyea and Siegfried Vogel suited the seedier Kaspar and Kuno to a tee.

Among the women, Ailish Tynan's Ännchen sparkled throughout. Hillevi Martintelto as Agathe, was more perfectly radiant in rapture than in reflection.

There were fine contributions too from Ronan Collet as a nimble Kilian, Christopher Maltman as Ottokar and the delightful quartet of post-graduate singers from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama - Carolyn Dobbin, Catriona Holt, Gail Johnston and Madeleine Shaw - as the Bridesmaids. All in all, a great night for Weber.

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