BWW Review: THE MAGIC MARKSMAN Slightly Off Target
THE MAGIC MARKSMAN (DER FREISHÜTZ) at George Mason University and present by Virginia Opera certainly offered a spectacle. Directed by Stephen Lawless, the show's well-crafted sets, designed by Benoit Dugardyn, brought you into the small German-esque town. The lighting, designed by Patricia Collins, was very interesting and truly set the scene. The music composition was absolutely beautiful; it was a great show to simply listen to.
Of course an opera is not an opera without the perfected voices of the singers reaching heights that I didn't even know existed. A well casted piece, actors Corey Bix (Max), Joseph Barron (Kaspar) and Kara Shay Thomson (Agathe) all struck a chord.
In THE MAGIC MARKSMAN, Max is a skilled huntsman who keeps getting beat by his rival. Set during the annual shooting competition, if Max doesn't win, he risks losing his love, Agathe and not being able to marry her. Kaspar offers to help, but at the cost of working with the Devil.
THE MAGIC MARKSMAN has all the elements of a good performance, an intriguing story with well executed theatrical elements. However, much to my surprise one significant aspect fell flat: the language. The producers of the opera made the decisions to take MARKSMAN out of Germany and into a small North American town of German immigrants. With this decision, they also translated the opera into English. Unfortunately, this decision made certain aspects of the show seem very silly. The music was translated to an elementary English level; so much of the seriousness of an opera and its music was brought down by the words. On the one hand, it was nice to be able to fully understand what was going on. On the other hand, English disjointed my understanding and perspective of the piece. The modern day American lyrics and speech were simply out of place and ultimately it would likely have been better if I didn't understand every word.
For example, towards the end of the show, Max admitted to being tempted by the devil. He sings, "I was weak, but I'm not truly bad." They couldn't have chosen any other word than bad? How about wicked or depraved? Instead of Max acknowledging the potentially serious consequences of his actions at the end of the piece, it felt more that he was talking to his friend about a bad throw he tossed in a football game.
In a quest to likely achieve more approachability and expose broader audiences to the opera, it was sadly lost in translation. It is unfortunate because again it was outfitted with terrific theatrical elements. I did enjoy aspects of it, however if this is your first opera, perhaps wait for DER FREISHÜTZ when performed in German.
Runtime was about two and a half hours with an intermission.