You cannot praise the German city theater system often enough. As the legacy of the small state, we have a stage density in this country that the world envies us for.
There are 81 locations with their own opera ensembles alone – this corresponds to 50 percent of the global music theater offering. 9,300 people are engaged in the Federal Republic as soloists as well as in choirs and orchestras, as socially insured artists who continue to receive their salaries even in times of corona crisis.
Most of the opera companies can be found in small and medium-sized towns, sometimes even in 25,000-inhabitant nests such as Neustrelitz, where the municipal theater is the largest employer in the area.
And yet the size of the community does not say anything about the quality of the performances. They are often even more exciting in the so-called province than in the metropolises. Because that’s where the young people work, the ambitious and the curious who want to achieve something, not least their own promotion to the classic league.
The bottom of tradition
The fresh look that conductor Tomas Netopil cast at Carl Maria von Weber’s “Freischütz” at the Aalto Music Theater in Essen, for example, is absolutely enlightening. The live recording of the Oehms Classics CD label makes it clear that the German “National Opera” is actually 199 years old.
Most of the Maestri conduct the opera in an arch-romantic manner – as is customary from Richard Wagner’s musical dramas, to which Weber was an important role model.
Tomas Netopil, on the other hand, does not want to hear the score forward in terms of music history – Wagner only tackled his first masterpiece, the “Flying Dutchman” 20 years after the “Freischütz” premiere – but backwards. He is interested in the floor of tradition on which Weber was moving.
[YoucanfindallimportantupdatesofthedayforthecoronavirusinthefreeTagesspiegelnewsletter”[AllewichtigenUpdatesdesTageszumCoronavirusfindenSieimkostenlosenTagesspiegel-Newsletter”Questions of the day“. The most important news, reading recommendations and debates. To register, click here.]
“Singspiel” is the somewhat unfortunate generic term for the form of musical theater with which the German composers wanted to distance themselves from the dominant Italian opera. The line of development leads from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and Beethoven’s “Fidelio” to the “Freischütz” to Lortzings ” Tsar and Carpenter ”and Nicolai’s“ Funny Wives of Windsor ”.
Easy lyrical voices
Tomas Netopil emphasizes the Biedermeier atmosphere of the rural plot, does not upgrade emotionally as powerfully as usual when it gets dramatic, but makes the Essen Philharmonic sound light and transparent.
This in turn makes it possible to cast the leading roles with light, lyrical voices. Jessica Muirhead’s Agathe sounds almost girly than Tamara Banjesevic’s Ännchen, Maximilian Schmitt sings his namesake with a bright, agile tenor, and even the devastated Kaspar remains a daring daredevil with Heiko Trinsinger.
This opera was a courageous experiment, and the timbres with which Weber painted the realm of evil were truly outrageous in 1821. For performances that only emphasize the romantic romance, the private and village scenes often seem outdated.
In the Essen performance, on the other hand, the “Freischütz” can be experienced as an organic unity, as a story that tells that every soul has two sides: a dark one, but also a light one.