Festival Vancouver LogoWeber's Der Freischütz

 

Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Chorus


Conductor Jonathan Darlington Max John MacMaster Agathe Carol Wilson Ännchen Donna Brown Ottokar and Kilian Doug MacNaughton Kaspar Randall Jakobsh Hermit Alain Coulombe Bridesmaid Robyn Driedger-Klassen

Date 1August 2005 at 19.30 Venue The Orpheum

Reviewer J H Stape


Festival Vancouver Logo
Festival Vancouver 2005

How bold of Festival Vancouver to programme Carl Maria von Weber's 1821 opera Der Freischütz (The Marksman) for its opening gala concert. Once popular in the world's major opera houses, the work now lives on, outside Germany, mainly in dismembered form in the concert hall. On the basis of this glittering performance one wonders why.

German Romanticism is as remote from the modern sensibility as Pluto from the sun, but lush and moving music, toe-tapping tunes, high drama, and meaty roles should guarantee this former mainstay of the repertoire greater popularity. True, its cloying religiosity and simplistic psychology are off-putting, but no more so than Faust's.

The assembled cast, all strong, and the Vancouver Opera and Chorus, under the fiery direction of Maestro Jonathan Darlington offered an impassioned performance, attentive to musical detail and catching the work's grand sweep and intimate gestures. Save for a tricky moment or two in the overture, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra played its heart out, with Maestro Darlington characteristically drawing out deft and nuanced playing. The chorus sang splendidly, offering fervour and energetic commitment to its large role.

John MacMaster's Marksman was broad in conception, his large voice making considerable impact and his dramatic sense vivid and well honed. A bit hoarse and reedy on occasion, the voice nonetheless easily sliced through the amassed orchestral forces, and he convincingly conveyed the inner conflicts of a man ready to betray himself for love, finding his true self and his heart's desire at the end

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Carol Wilson, last season's superb Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, made a welcome return to Vancouver Opera, her beautiful voice and witty stage presence making Agathe much more than a passive pawn about to marry. Donna Brown brought vividness and charm to her performance as her friend Ännchen, her tone lovely and her singing intelligent.

Jonathan Darllngton, Conductor
Jonathan Darlington, Conductor

Powerful and dominating, the tall, dark, and meltingly handsome villain of the piece, Randall Jakobsh provided luxurious vocal heft and dramatic force, his stylish bass ringing out with virile menace. His invocation of Samiel (Satan) in the Wolf's Glen scene and the exchanges with his satanic master were simply spine-tingling. The choice to revert to German dialogue here, that otherwise being in English, was a wise one. Alain Coulombe, offstage as Samiel, also offered an authoritative Hermit, in ringing and elegant voice.

The smaller roles were well filled in a cast that sparkled, delivering thoroughly musical readings shot through with dramatic values. Even on a bare stage, this opera came to life, and in a work where all depends on hitting the target, this was a solid bull's eye. Carefully aimed and always on spot on, this was a magic bullet, indeed.

2005 JH Stape


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