Weber: Der Freischütz (French version with recitatives by Berlioz)

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LABELS: L’empreinte digitale
WORKS: Der Freischütz (French version with recitatives by Berlioz)
PERFORMER: Anne Constantin, Cécile Perrin, François Soulet , Jacques Perroni, Didier Henry; Saint-Eustache Choir, Hungarian Philharmonic CO/Jean-Paul Penin
Der Freischütz in French? That – as ‘Le franc-tireur’ – was how the Paris Opéra audience saw Weber’s masterpiece in 1841, 20 years after its triumphant Berlin premiere. Moreover, no lesser a personage than Berlioz had been persuaded to compose recitatives to replace the original spoken dialogue. (Such dialogue was strictly against the house-rules at the Opéra – as opposed to the Opéra-comique, for which Bizet composed Carmen.) Berlioz made his contribution on condition that Weber’s score would otherwise be presented intact: in 1824, a hideously mutilated Robin Hood version had been put together by the notorious Castil-Blaze, though even that hadn’t prevented Berlioz from being overwhelmed by the work’s freshness and originality.


Berlioz’s additions are largely discreet, though inevitably the famous ‘Wolf’s Glen’ melodrama suffers from having most of its dialogue sung. This new recording is certainly an enterprising venture, though, alas, good intentions are not enough. The actual performance of Weber’s wonderful score is extraordinarily pedestrian and colourless, and the lack of dramatic involvement is exacerbated not only by the generally wooden singing, but also by a curious schism between voices and orchestra which makes it sound as though the two were recorded separately. Somehow one has the feeling that Errol Flynn may be lurking in the wings after all. Misha Donat