Der Freischütz, composed in 1821, was an extremely influential opera in its day, propelling the genre towards its evolution from the opera of the classical period to the through-composed operas of the late Romantic period. Richard Wagner and his contemporaries were certainly inspired by its composer, Carl Maria von Weber. The opera itself draws upon Faustian ideas, telling the tale of a man who tries to damn the soul of a friend in an effort to keep his own soul. (Some friend, right?) In contrast, the opera’s heroine, Agathe, personifies prayerfulness–and, you guessed it, Agathe is in love with the guy that’s doomed. Opera wouldn’t be opera without a love interest–it’d be Einstein on the Beach. The themes from the opera Taffanel uses in his Fantaisie sur le Freischütz revolve primarily around Agathe’s character. The first theme, “Leise, leise fromme Weise” (or, “Softly, gentle air”) is a prayer of hope. “Und ob die Wolke” (“And even if clouds veil it”) is a prayer in which she pleads for protection. The last theme is a coy tune that a friend sings to Agathe in order to cheer her up, called: Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen” or “Whenever an attractive boy walks by.”
I guess I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood today. This was the first piece I learned in my time at UNCSA, and it will be the last piece I play representing UNCSA at the Rosen-Schaffel Competition–so I thought I’d post my recording of the piece from last summer.