A brilliant version of “Freischütz” at the Bavarian State Opera.
Max is a loser, a wannabe Adabei, a cross-stand. Nevertheless, he is lovable, which is why Agathe, the daughter of the economic mogul Kuno, wants to marry him. She also wants it because the humanist Max, who would have refused to do military service earlier, does not fit into her despot dad’s world of money. The employees are celebrating a standing party in its noble business premises (glass front with elegantly curved giant room divider made of wood) without masks, only the service people wear them. There is bottled beer, a type not necessarily valued by connoisseurs as the best of all Munich brewing products. Anyway, anything is possible in Munich, especially in the National Theater, where Carl Maria von Weber’s existentialist experimental piece “Der Freischütz” succeeds as a stirring adventure.
This is by no means a matter of course, because the “Freischütz” regularly fails. Because here broad-minded bourgeoisie, horror romance, naive piety, hunter folklore, wolf gorge, devil magic, jealous drama and lust for murder are mixed together. Weber’s music bounces around unrestrainedly between folk and film music, between impressionism and march cheers, church and pub, pop song and avant-garde. “Der Freischütz” is a hybrid of the special class, a difficult to interpret panopticon that directors and conductors love to elude. It is quite possible that only Ruth Berghaus and Nikolaus Harnoncourt came close to the piece in its ambiguity between everyday harmlessness and psychological hell. But that was a long, long time ago, in 1993 in Zurich.
Don’t you grow up until you’ve committed murder?
At the same level, but absolutely today, the new Munich production by Dmitri Tcherniakov demonstrates why “Der Freischütz” is still unsettling 200 years after its Berlin premiere in June 1821. Tcherniakov, born in Moscow in 1970, is the most subtle opera archaeologist. In the old pieces he always tracks down the fundamental motive that prevents the society shown on stage from functioning properly. But Tcherniakov, which is one of his many strengths, doesn’t claim anything, he just asks the crucial question. In the “Freischütz” he negotiates, well covered by music and libretto, the question of whether our world is based on human sacrifice, as it was in the distant past, whether murder is not the decisive prerequisite for initiation into adult, moneymaker and married life.