Andreas Schager, Lise Davidsen, Sofia Fomina, Alan Held et al; MDR Leipzig Radio Choir; Frankfurt Radio Symphony/Marek Janowski
Pentatone PTC 5186 788 (hybrid CD/SACD) 115:52 mins (2 discs)
Der Freischütz’s first performance in Berlin in 1821 had the audience on its feet and within months Weber’s opera was being cheered throughout Germany. German opera had come of age. Weber had liberated it from the Italians and put Singspiel back in its box.
Those same audiences might have sat on their hands had they listened to this new recording of a great Romantic opera. It is carefully done, and due attention is paid to Weber’s inventive score, but the result is frankly pedestrian. The tempos of the overture are too measured by far. Where’s the excitement? As for the scene in Wolf’s Glen, many will have witnessed more horrors in a convivial German Gaststube than are unfurled as Kasper and Max forge their magic bullets.
And why has the original dialogue been banished in favour of extended narratives written by Katharina Wagner and Daniel Weber for a cackling Samiel and a solemn Hermit? A stage drama is transformed into a staged oratorio. Better by far to recast Johann Kind’s original flawed dialogue.
For all that there’s good singing here, led by Lise Davidsen’s sweet-toned Agathe who sings her aria ‘Leise, Leise’ as if she really means it. Sofia Fomina is a perkily happy Ännchen. But Andreas Schager is pushed as Max with strained tone from the start. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony presumably give no more than their conductor Marek Janowski asked of them, but the chorus – the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir – who are such an essential part of this opera, give their all.