Der Freischütz in Mannheim

Be wary of any performance in a German theatre publicised  as “nach” an author or composer. To be best translated as “based on”, this normally implies that the performers have taken great liberties with the original work. Now the  Mannheim production of Der Freischütz which was mounted in October 2013 was already, when I saw it later in the season, being unusually described as “nach” Armin Holz, from which it may be inferred that this director now disowns what is to be seen. Of course I cannot know what differences have been made to the original staging, but  I have to report that in its current form it is remarkably unconvincing. Perhaps I was fortunate, perhaps it had been even worse in October.

Built around the devilish Samiel, for whom extra dialogue had been written, it forsakes the romantic gothic tale of goodness, evil and the supernatural for an abstract exploration of black magic and religion. We were presented with all sorts of symbols, actions and constructions , most of the latter noisily trundled on and off by a team of stagehands. The movements and motivations of the main characters were, to me at least, incomprehensible; and were it not for the occasional explanation of the story by Samiel, it would have been difficult to determine what was going on. What is normally the highlight of a performance of Freischütz, the Wolf Glen scene, was here simply a damp squib.  Fortunately we had Weber’s music to retain our interest but the workmanlike conducting of Alois Seidlmeier and robust performances from the male singers , particularly Istvan Kovacshazi as Max, were little compensation for a a wretched operatic evening.