Opera Atelier’s 2012-2013 season lights up the stage with their Fall production, Der Freischütz (The Marksman). Each show begins with a few words from director Marshall Pynkoski updating the audience on the company’s achievements and provides insights on the evening’s performance ahead. Pynkoski’s genuine enthusiasm and passion for the stage always sets the mood right before a show.
The show opens with instrumental interlude and brief teaser scenes of our main characters whose plight we do not know yet, but invites us in to learn more. The story begins with the titular marksman, Max; whose typical shooting precision is currently eluding him. He is to marry his love, Agathe but not before passing a test of marksmanship first. Nervous and distraught, Max meets a strange villager who promises him magic bullets, which would guarantee Max would hit his mark and marry Agathe.
In the stunning close of Act I, Max meets Kaspar in the forest where he is torn between the temptation of the devil and use of magic bullets and losing the woman he loves. Without giving away more of the story, the staging of this scene is visually sumptuous. The use of long sheets of fabric to exaggerate the movement of the dancers creates a fluid scene. The projections of Henri Fuseli paintings certainly added dramatic depth but ultimately did not quite hit the mark for this reviewer.
Though this production is entitled The Marksman, undoubtedly hitting the mark are the women. Meghan Lindsay as Agathe is luminous as a delicate bride-to-be and delivers a powerful and emotionally evocative performance. Framed beautifully by the lighting of the night sky as Agathe waits for Max’s arrival the night before their wedding, Lindsay’s voice carries from the front row to the back of the balcony with raw passion. Carla Huhtanen plays Äanchen, Agathe’s supporting friend, in a brilliant supporting role. Huhtanen brings comic relief, a unique role for women in opera and genuinely looks like she’s having fun.
Also unique to this adaptation, the verses are sung in German and words are spoken in English. The parts that are sung are much stronger than the parts that are spoken. Somehow the English does not capture the same spirit as the German and it feels like two separate performances.
What seamlessly flows through the production is how well the stage is utilized with limited use of levels. This is an absolute strength of Opera Atelier; every inch of the Elgin Theatre’s stage is used to its fullest. Each character is always thoughtfully placed, and the supporting cast is positioned expertly to bring clear direction and emotion to each scene. Always a blend of superb vocals, instruments, dancers and staging, Opera Atelier has started their season off with a beautiful production and are building great excitement for The Magic Flute in April 2013.
Der Freischütz is on stage at The Elgin Theatre for only five more shows: Oct 28, 30, 31, November 2 and 3. Visit www.operaatelier.com for tickets.