The Herald
Conrad Wilson
von Weber: Der Freischütz, Edinburgh, 17 August 2004
Usher Hall
Weber's virtuosity was not in question last night when the best and most atmospheric of his operas was brought to stirring life by Sir Charles Mackerras. Der Freischütz, it's true, is not foolproof, but compared with Oberon and Euryanthe it is theatrically viable. So long as it has the right cast, conductor, and director, it can be made to work. Although, on this occasion, it was not wholly put to the test - Sir Charles's was purely a concert performance - there seemed no doubt that a gripping production of the work lay in the musical material Edinburgh had managed to assemble. The cast contained no weak links. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus were in full command of their roles in the unfolding drama. And Sir Charles was consistently alert to every detail of Weber's poetic score.

The performance - the Festival's first since the early 1950s - was indeed so conspicuously right that you found yourself longing for an actual staging. But would this (like the symbolic side of the opera's plot) have been tempting providence? For all its virtues, Freischütz has its ludicrous features, but to tamper with it, as modern directors usually do, is always at the expense of Weber's musical resources.

Sir Charles did not deprive us of these, whether in the romantic cello and viola solos in Act Three or in the contrasts between light and darkness upon which the whole work depends. Hillevi Martinpelto, Jonas Kaufmann, and John Relyea as the heroine, hero, and villain were in wonderful voice, finely supported by Ailish Tynan, Siegfried Vogel, and Christopher Maltman in what could only be called an ideal cast.


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