[Met Performance] CID:227080

New Production

Der Freischütz
Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, September 28, 1971

Debut : Gerd Feldhoff, Michael Ebert, Elyssa Lindner, Rudolf Heinrich

Der Freischütz (22)
Carl Maria von Weber | Friedrich Kind
Sándor Kónya

Pilar Lorengar

Gerd Feldhoff [Debut]

Edith Mathis

Rod MacWherter

John Macurdy

Andrij Dobriansky

Edmond Karlsrud

Michael Ebert [Debut]

Elizabeth Anguish

Elyssa Lindner [Debut]

Cecelia Entner

Leopold Ludwig

Rudolf Heinrich [Debut]

Der Freischütz received nine performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Review 1:

Review of David Hamilton in the Financial Times

Lack of conviction was depressingly manifest in the season's first new production, the first presentation of Weber's Der Freischutz on a local stage since 1929. Originally scheduled for the strike-abridged season of 69-70, the team first announced had included Karl Böhm (conductor), Rudolf Heinrich (designer), and Otto Schenk (director), but of these only Heinrich eventually materialized, now doubling as director too, with Leopold Ludwig in the pit, The cast included Pilar

Lorengar (Agathe), Edith Mathis (Aennchen), Sándor Kónya (Max), John Macurdy (the Hermit), Gerd Feldhoff (Caspar) and Michael Ebert (Samiel) - the latter two making their Metropolitan debuts.

Those who know what the "new Met" can do in the way of stage magic (as demonstrated in the famous production of "Die Frau ohne Schatten") had high hopes of the Wolf's Glen scene, but these were sorely disappointed. Instead of the prescribed visions and terrors, there was an unconvincing avalanche of Styrofoam rocks, followed by some flash-powder lightning and a timid storm. I would not go so far as to say that the entire score is not worth doing if you can't bring this scene off effectively - but a director-designer who does not understand its theatrical purpose (atmosphere, plain and simple; it certainly does not advance the plot) has failed to grasp the essence of Weber's achievement in the work as a whole. Heinrich's expressionistic esthetic cast an air of decay over the sets, with Agathe's cottage plunged into a forest of tropical density - one wondered how she found out that the stars were shining so brightly during the prayer scene? All those rotting trees, seemed to say, "Look, we're so much more sophisticated than these German peasants, let's show them living in a corrupt world, too ignorant to realize it." But of course the balance of the score is quite the other way: Weber's world is a good world, full of the health of nature and the love of God, and we all know - or should know, in a properly conceived production - that Samiel is an intruder, at home only in the Wolf's Glen and similar foul places, and that virtue will triumph in the end.

If everything was awry visually, there were some few auditory compensations. Miss Mathis was a superior Aennchen, with a sweet, true voice and ample rhythmic sparkle, while Miss Lorengar offered warmth of phrasing if not always the necessary security of pitch. Feldhoff overcomes a certain plainness of voice by the thrust of his articulation. Like Mathis, he brought his own stage business with him from Hamburg, and projected a more precise character than those dependent on Heinrich's limited invention. Kónya could learn a good deal from Feldhoff about sculpting a melodic line. By throwing consonants away at the ends of syllables, he loses them for attack purposes, and so enters most of his notes with a rhythmically indeterminate slide, which is not only unmusical, but also unpleasant.

Perhaps most heartening was the uncommon vigor and ensemble of the chorus, who sounded very much as if they enjoyed having good "new" music to sing for a change. Ludwig conducted with limited vigor, but was hardly as dampening a factor as in last year's "Parsifal." He did acquiesce, regrettably, in one piece of musical idiocy. The entr'acte that is supposed to precede Act 3 (essentially an orchestral transcription of the hunting chorus that opens the final scene) became an interlude between the scenes, and thus two good things were made into too much of one good thing.

Photographs of Sándor Kónya as Max, Pilar Lorengar as Agathe, and Edith Mathis as Ännchen in Der Freischütz by Louis Mélançon/Metropolitan Opera.

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