Here is another marvelous Rolf Liebermann production. It is one of a newly available stream of performances by the Hamburg State Opera, featuring the excellent American soprano, Arlene Saunders, who outdoes herself here in the role of Agathe. What makes this DVD of Der Freischutz stand out is the presence of several of the more illustrious artists of a previous era, including the delicious Edith Mathis and the great bass Gottlob Frick, making a rare - and lively - appearance as the corrupted Kaspar. Hans Sotin as the Hermit and Tom Krause's Ottokar round out a cast of superb artists in this warm and delightful Freischutz.
The filmed production is excellent. It's wonderful to finally have a beautifully sung and staged version of this important opera. Now we can clearly see what inspired Wagner to produce the greatest German music dramas of the 19th century. The chorus sings and acts admirably - everyone is spot on dramatically; costumes are good, the directing is effective, and most of all, the singing is glorious, especially (and surprisingly) Arlene Saunders, and not surprisingly, the spectacular Edith Mathis. The mournful tenor, Ernst Kozub, the delightfully demonic Frick and the rest of the cast are all moved along at a brisk and lively pace by the conductor Leopold Ludwig in this quintessentially Teutonic, mythological romance.
It's an interesting point that Ernst Kozub, whose voice is really gorgeous and powerful, is rumoured to be "Our Siegfried", the first choice for the Solti Ring. Unnamed in Culshaw's account of the monumental production of the first studio Ring in his "Ring Resounding", Kozub is described as the next great heldentenor - an impossibly difficult position to fill in the shadow of such legends as Melchior and Windgassen. Apparently he was gifted with a beautiful voice, but suffered from an inability to learn the notoriously challenging part of Siegfried, and in the end, had to be replaced by Windgassen. Here you can experience the beauty and power of Kozub's ravishing voice, and grieve that we have no other documents of his wonderful talent other than a live Zauberflote with Solti and Grummer. Mozart: Die ZauberflÃ¶te
Weber was Mozart's cousin by marriage, and one might say their relationship goes beyond the familial. Der Freischutz has many moments that sound a lot like the Magic Flute, which is a kind of musical older cousin to Freischutz. Edith Mathis, the flexible, luxurious voiced Aennchen in this production, sang the greatest version of Mozart's most beautiful and nearly impossible concert aria, "Ch'io mi scordi di te?", KV 505. This masterpiece of Mozart's vocal art can be heard on the Complete Phillips Edition of Mozart Arias, Vocal Ensembles, Canons.