In Germany it’s not uncommon to hear that it’s cheaper to visit the opera than it is to see a musical, a fact most of us Brits would marvel at. However, that’s just what I discovered last week, when taking a break from the infamous Heidelberg University workload, I went to see Der Freischütz, an opera by the German Romantic composer Carl Maria von Weber.
Performed at National Theatre Mannheim, the opera is inspired by a German folklore tale, whereby a cunning huntsman, eager to win a shooting contest forges a pact with the devil to receive magic bullets with the ability to hit targets without fail. However, unbeknownst to the huntsman, the final seventh bullet is manipulated by the devil. Into this tale Weber inserts the plot of courtship and marriage, as the huntsman, Max, eager to win the hand of the charming heroine, Agathe, calls on the supernatural to help him triumph over his opponents.
The theatre was packed, and I was surprised to see many young people in the audience, who were captivated by the stunning vocals of the performers. The folkloric element of the Opera was also captured well in the set design, as giant plaques imprinted with portraits of nature revolved around the stage. Lighting too captured the mood of the action on stage. For example, switching to red during moments of tension, and flickering blue in more serene scenes.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed Der Freischutz, and found the opera to be as accessible and entertaining, as some of our best known musicals and plays performed in London’s West End.
So if you’ve not done so yet, why not give the opera a try?