Le Freyschutz | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Le Freyschutz 

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There's a certain irony to the existence of a French adaptation of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischutz ("The Free Shooter"): this quintessentially Germanic opera was seen in its time (the 1820s) as symbolic of cultural liberation from Italian and French influences, and it's a direct ancestor of Wagner's monumental mythography. A landmark of Romanticism, Der Freischutz drew its music from folk melodies and its narrative from a German legend of a marksman who obtains magic bullets from the devil. It was an immediate hit, and Weber was hailed as the anti-Rossini for his rejection of glibness and ornament in evoking the ancient, uncanny forest where the story is set. Hector Berlioz saw a hackneyed French production (under the title Robin des bois) but was impressed with the imaginative score as well as Weber's use of folk art tradition; years later he accepted a commission to rework the piece to the specifications of the Paris Opera. His version, which holds interest today mainly as one famous composer's revision of another, is rarely revived and in fact may never have been performed in the U.S.; Ravinia's head maestro Christoph Eschenbach presented it last year in Paris. Here he's assembled a solid cast led by veteran tenor Vinson Cole as the Freischutz and young German soprano Michaela Kaune as Agathe, his love interest. Eschenbach, concluding his nine seasons as the festival's music director, will conduct the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, a mix of CSO members and local freelancers of comparable stature, and the Apollo Chorus. Thursday, August 14, 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Steiner.

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