Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
I just sat through a video pf the current Vienna Freischutz - an opera I really love and it was such a trial - I guess it was supposed to he a study of Weber in the act of composing it WHY?????? and the costumes were the usual blacked out eyes and big wigs.
Freischutz seems particularly to embarrass modern producers, a continual target for self-conscious cleverness. This may be partly because, like Hansel and Gretel, it was an opera so many of them were taken to see as children, and hence automatically old-fashioned, to be rebelled against. Partly, too, it's despised for its perceived "German-ness" -- which is ironic, because the setting is Bohemia -- but also it's seen as impossibly kitsch, with the sweet bridesmaid's chorus, jolly huntsmen etc.
There's also the German reaction -- East German particularly, fuelled by Stalinist anti-religiosity -- against anything smacking of the supernatural. Many years back I heard one respected German critic explain in solemn earnest that it was impossible for Germans (and hence he meant anyone who mattered) to consider The Turn of the Screw a great opera "because we no longer believe in ghosts". Someone came up with the psychosexual "explanation" -- the ghosts are simply a manifestation of the Governess's frustrated imagination -- and he consented to nod a little. You can imagine what minds like that make of Freischutz -- except you don't have to, just look at any of the DVDs available. Only the stodgy old Hamburg broadcast is remotely recognisable. The rest beggar description. As to Vienna, it appears as if some clever sod latched onto the metaphor "creative demons" and used it to twist the plot into a horribly laboured allegory -- which of course goes pear-shaped very quickly, as imposed allegories tend to.
Given all this, I was quite pleasantly surprised at the recent film The Huntsman's Bride. Have you seen this? OK, you do get Napoleon wandering through it now and again, and the terrors of the Wolf's Glen are a few uniformed stiffs and a sort of molecular graphic, but it could have been a great deal worse. Some good singers, too.