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Highlights from Carl Maria von Weber's romantic Der Freischutz this week on The Lyric Stage.

Edith Mathis and Peter Schreier head the cast.

Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischutz premiered in 1821 and critics describe it as a "pivotal opera", and the "first important German romantic opera".

The atmosphere and story of the opera are very Gothic. As with most operas, the plot is complicated but basically it is about how the young forest ranger Max wins the hand of Agathe. Max loves Agatha and is set to become the successor to Kuno, the head ranger and Agatha's father, under the condition that he wins a marksmanship contest. But he loses to another ranger, Kilian, in a preliminary match. Desperate, Max agrees to use the magic bullets provided by the evil Caspar who has sold his soul to the devil and will save himself for three years if he can hand over Max to the devil instead.

In the Wolfsglen scene, the center piece of the opera, Max makes seven magic bullets that can't miss - but the last bullet is controlled by the devil, who makes it hit Agathe. She is saved by her bridal wreath, and the villainous Caspar dies instead. Max confesses and is banished, but with good behavior he can return and he and Agathe can marry.

The selections we have this week are from a 1973 recording featuring Edith Mathis, Peter Schreier, Gundala Janowitz, and Theo Adam, with Carlos Kleiber conducting the Dresden State Orchestra.

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.