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Arts Desk

What is the Most German Opera that is Loved Around the World?

Before Richard Strauss, before Richard Wagner, more than Hansel and Gretel, and even more than Mozart, the most German opera is, and always will be, Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber.

The Freeshooter or The Marksman tells the story of Max, a man so in love with Agatha that he sells his soul—almost. To win her hand he must first win a shooting match, accepting an offer for magic bullets, bullets that cannot miss. They are forged in the deep forest by Samiel, the personification of Evil.

Love wins the day, however—that, and Agatha’s bridal wreath, which deflects a bullet sent toward her by Samiel. A holy man restores Max from his folly, condemns the contest, and the townspeople rejoice.

Weber composed music so violently expressive and so romantic that Der Freischütz was not only a hit at its 1821 Berlin premiere, but it took Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, and London by storm. Wagner, Berlioz, and Tchaikovsky all recognized the power of Weber’s Der Freischütz, and this archetype of German Romanticism—this most German, yet universal opera of the triumph of love over evil—has been an international success ever since.