Der Freischütz - Synopsis
Kilian, a peasant, and Max, a huntsman, compete against each other in a shooting contest from which Kilian emerges victorious while Max is left to face the ridicule of the spectators. Kuno, the head forester, is concerned about his huntsman’s poor performance in the contest, for Max is to marry Agathe, Kuno’s daughter, the very next day and at the same time obtain the right to succeed him as head forester in the service of Prince Ottokar. But tradition requires that Max should fire a successful trial shot to prove himself worthy.
Max is desperate. One of Kuno’s foresters, Kaspar, whose earlier courtship of Agathe was unsuccessful, promises to help Max by providing him with magic bullets which cannot fail to hit their target. To prove that he is in earnest he lends Max his gun, with which the latter, to his surprise, immediately shoots an eagle. Kaspar now has no difficulty in persuading Max to meet him in the wolf’s glen at midnight so that they can cast some more magic bullets. Kaspar, who has signed away his soul to Samiel, the black huntsman, is jubilant; he plans to deliver Max into the hands of the devil and in this way save himself.
At home in the forester’s house, a picture of one of Kuno’s forefathers has fallen off the wall, striking Agathe on the forehead, and she interprets this as an evil omen. Ännchen, who lives with her, tries her best to reassure her. Ännchen apparently knows just what a girl has to do to get herself a husband. Agathe tells her about her visit to a hermit who warned her that she was in great danger and presented her with a bunch of roses which had been blessed.
Max comes to the house and tells Agathe about shooting the eagle, but does not go into any detail about how he managed this. The two women are unable to prevent Max from setting out for the wolf’s glen.
In the glen, Kaspar is preparing for the ritual of casting magic bullets. He appeals to Samiel, the black huntsman, to allow him to live a little longer and offers Max as a sacrifice. Max is to be given seven magic bullets, the last of which will be guided by the powers of hell.
At midnight, Kaspar casts the seven magic bullets while Max looks on.
Agathe has had a dream in which she was a white dove at which Max had taken aim. The girls from the village come to serenade her in honour of her wedding day. When Agathe puts on her wedding dress and goes to take her bridal wreath out of the box she finds herself with a mour-ning wreath in her hands. She quickly has Ännchen bind the hermit’s white roses into a bridal headdress.
In the course of the royal hunt Max and Kaspar have used six of the seven magic bullets. Prince Ottokar now challenges Max to attempt his trial shot. Max takes aim at the white dove, which he has been told is his target, with the last of the magic bullets. Both Agathe, who unexpectedly appears behind the dove, and Kaspar fall to the ground as the shot is fired. Agathe has been protected by the white roses and is still alive; Kaspar, however, has been fatally wounded and dies cursing heaven and hell. Max confesses that he has been involved in black magic. Ottokar wants to banish him, but the hermit intercedes: Max is to wait a year and prove himself before being allowed to marry Agathe. The hermit also abolishes the tradition of the trial shot.
Translation: Susan Bollinger
© Bavarian State Opera