Review: Der Freischütz (The Marksman) (Opera Atelier)

Toronto’s Opera Atelier graces the stage of the Elgin Theatre with their latest production of Der Freischütz (The Marksman)

Writing for Mooney on Theatre has allowed me to see a wide variety of productions that I likely would not have seen otherwise. In an effort to expose myself to a greater variety of performance, I took the opportunity to watch my first opera, Opera Atelier’s Der Freischütz (The Marksman), which is playing at the Elgin Theatre until November 3. My feelings regarding the production are mixed.

Der Freischütz (The Marksman) is about Max (Krešimir Špicer), who must win the right to marry his love, Agathe (Meghan Lindsay), in a test of marksmanship. Since he has been unable to hit anything lately, he makes a deal with the devil Samiel (Curtis Sullivan) for magical bullets that will help him win.

I had been told in advance that if I couldn’t understand what was happening that at the very least I’d be able to enjoy the spectacle of the performance, namely the costumes, the set, the lighting. And I did, very much so. Everything about Der Freischütz is beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the night-sky effect and the entire sequence in Wolf’s Glen (which is cursed, so there was a lot of interesting lighting and ghostly dancing). I was a little confused by the inclusion of what looked like fire-escape stairs that went up to the side balconies, which seemed out of place with the rest of the décor, and could have been dressed in a way that fit with the rest of the show.

I also enjoyed the singing, which I was able to understand thanks to closed captioning on a screen above the stage. The spoken parts of the show were English, which is something I had not expected. However, I suspect I would’ve enjoyed the performance a little more had I not known what the performers were singing. Because the translations are universally literal, the language loses a lot of its melodic quality. You soon realize that the characters are repeating themselves over and over, and this took my date and I out of the show.

I think, ultimately, that I was unimpressed with the staging of the show. I have no background in opera, and am unfamiliar with the conventions. However, I think if a character is going to sing about their current state of mind, there are more interesting ways to go about it than to (literally) dance around the same thought for long minutes. The moments of group dancing and ghostly figures were far more interesting than when the characters were emoting on their own.

If nothing else Der Freischütz (The Marksman) has the honour of being my first opera, and given the story and intricate staging I’m not certain that it will be eclipsed by any other productions in the genre. I’m still not sure that opera is my cup of tea, but the experience was aesthetically interesting.

– Der Freischütz (The Marksman) is playing at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge St) until November 3, 2012
– Performances run daily at 7:30pm. There is no performance on November 1, 2012.
– Tickets range from $35 to $175
– Tickets can be purchased online or at the door

Artists of Atelier Ballet. Photo by Bruce Zinger.


3 thoughts on “Review: Der Freischütz (The Marksman) (Opera Atelier)”

  1. read the program notes closely – Baroque and Romantic opera conventions (dance, gesture, rhetoric) are vastly differnet than what people expect from what they think is “opera”. :)

  2. Well this review is useless. As someone who attends operas occasionally, reading a review written about one by someone who knows nothing about them is pointless. All I get from this is “confusion” as opposed to a real review with objective critiques or comparisons. This is the first time I’ve ever felt disgusted my Mooney On Theatre. This is supposed to be a review, not a journal entry.

  3. Hi Ellen,

    Our goal here at Mooney on Theatre is to demystify theatre; to make it more accessible to a broader audience and to pique the interest of people who may be intimidated or put-off by the perceived elitism of theatre.

    To that end, our reviews are experience-based rather than technical or critique based. We pride ourselves on the rich diversity of voices we offer. Our contributors come from a variety of backgrounds and have differing levels of experience with theatre. No matter their level of experience, we ask that they qualify opinions, state their biases and above all write in an accessible manner; we disuade the use of jargon and insider-language. This piece does just that.

    I believe that Heather’s experience as a first-time opera-goer is valid and valuable not only to others who may otherwise be interested in opera but are put-off by the elitism but also to opera companies themselves to inform their audience development; it is people like Heather who are new to opera that these companies will need to attract to sustain themselves.

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