Stories from the German forest

It is not an opera film; "Hunter's Bride" by Jens Neubert brings the "Freischütz", the romantic opera Carl Maria von Webers, to the cinema, but it wants to be more than a film-based opera.

So no orchestra pit can be seen Peter Hagmann ⋅ It's not an opera film; "Hunter's Bride" by Jens Neubert brings the "Freischütz", the romantic opera Carl Maria von Webers, to the cinema, but it wants to be more than a film-based opera. So there is no orchestra pit to be seen and no conductor in the semi-darkness of his desk lights, no red curtain and no festive audience. Rather, you see yourself in an autumn forest, a deciduous forest with a ground covered with leaves. Alone, the natural idyll is deceptive. Where the wide field begins, a battle rages, man against man; French are involved and apparently German hunters. There they lie, the dejected - the actors watch with a shudder from the Thespiskarren pulled by two horses as it passes by. Acoustic change of perspective

With which everything is already indicated. The director Jens Neubert (and with him Peter Stüber, the president of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, who is named here as the producer) shows the «Freischütz» in original settings - as Joseph Losey did in his film adaptation of Mozart's «Don Giovanni» thirty years ago did. Neubert chose Dresden, where he comes from like Carl Maria von Weber, and Saxon Switzerland with its jagged rock formations; the Moritzburg north of Dresden and the pheasant castle belonging to it are the main events. There the film, which runs under the original title of Weber's opera, places the story of the darn test shot that the hunter Max has to pass if he wants to lead his Agathe into marriage, and the hunter journeyman Kaspar, the free bullets watering understands. And as it corresponds to the naturalistic approach, this takes place in the period when the opera was created, and consequently the Napoleonic Wars with their cruelties and their imponderables. This is carried out consistently in every respect, which is demonstrated not least by the detailed scenes and the lovingly designed costumes by Per Hjorth. Harald Gunnar Paalgard's camera captures the venues with all the sense of the atmosphere of the moment - and in the case of the Wolfschlucht, where not only the bodies of the slaughtered French soldiers lie, but also where the devilish bullets are cast at midnight, with a keen sense for the gripping optical effect. Above all, Neubert and Paalgard bring the figures into the picture themselves. They come very close, even closer than in the legendary film adaptation of Mozart's “Magic Flute” by Ingmar Bergman. The faces in which many things can be seen and read tell a lot - from the poor shave to the dress uniform to the slightest twitching of the lips. However, Weber's “Freischütz” is sung, and that's where the problems begin. The open mouths, the tongues pushed back, the swollen veins - they take getting used to and sing a song of praise for the good old opera that keeps us at a distance. There is also an attempt to acoustically understand the change in perspective of the images. When the singer stands at the garden gate, he sounds embedded in the acoustic environment; but then, after a cut, the face comes in close-up, the voice booms right into your ear. This type of acoustic change of perspective disturbs the musical context as well as the often violent, even hectic movements on the screen. And it is no less difficult than the terribly strong, namely the basic level of the screening in the cinema that has been raised to the limit of pain. The film seems to have overwhelmed itself, and it also succeeds: in the end, you can find yourself almost a little dazed in reality. Nevertheless, Hunter's Bride is of course an opera film - which as such shows light as shadow. Under the direction of Daniel Harding, the London Symphony Orchestra designed its contribution entirely as a soundtrack: full in tone, heavy in diction, carried in slow, sharpened in speed - as if we were in the 1970s, which is by no means forbidden, but nevertheless Is a matter of taste. Magnificently the Berlin Radio Choir prepared by Simon Halsey, although the “He-he-Chor” of the introduction and the Jägerchor in the third stage are somewhat put into perspective by the staging.

Magnificent ensemble

The German-speaking ensemble of vocal soloists, which Jens Neubert has managed to put together, is now beyond any doubt. Max is a war disabled, traumatized - Michael König shows this impressively, and besides, that is the advantage of the studio recording, he copes with the delicate game without any effort. Grandiose Michael Volle as Kaspar: less a demon than a driven one. Juliane Banse provides the Agathe with all the charm, while Regula Mühlemann reinterprets the role of the Ännchen with her light but nowhere soup-like soprano - the young singer from Lucerne is a first-class discovery.

The smaller roles are also excellently occupied - all the way to René Pape, who does not bring the lieto fine as a hermit, but, which is only logical here, as an enlightened citizen and representative of the people. In the end, the view goes back to the forest of the beginning, which now turns out to be a German. There is silence, apart from the chirping of birds; and, as if blown away by the wind, voices from the opera sound to the credits - this is probably the most poetic moment in this overall extremely strong music film.


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