Summary Karl Maria Weber. Free Shooter


Opera in three acts

Libretto by F. Kind


Ottokar, the Bohemian prince

Kuno, Forester

Agatha, his daughter

Anhen, a friend of Agatha









Without singing





Kilian, rich peasant


Samiel, the “black hunter”

Peasants, hunters, girls, musicians.

The action takes place in Bohemia (Czech Republic) shortly after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).


The plot of the opera was an old, widely spread in Germany and the Czech Republic, the legend of a young man who concluded

a contract with the devil. Enchanted bullets obtained from the “black hunter” bring the youth a victory in the shooting competition, but the last bullet fatally injures his bride.

The desire to compose an opera arose in Weber in 1810, when he became acquainted with this colorful legend in the “Book of Terrible Histories” of the German romantic writer A. Apel. The legend attracted Weber with pictures of German folk life, poetry of forest nature, fantastic images. The composer was able to start his intention only in 1817. The libretto of the opera, written by F. Kind (1768-1843), differs from its original source with a happy ending: in the clash of good and evil, light forces win. With the world of gloomy, sinister fiction, the hunter Caspar, sold to the devil’s soul, is connected. Max – the bridegroom of Agatha – is marked by the typically romantic features of psychological duality: the influence of Caspar, behind which the hellish forces stand, is opposed by the charm of the purity of the loving Agatha, whose bright image is depicted by Weber with great warmth.


in the midst of a stormy national liberation upsurge, the opera The Free Shooter met the aspirations of an advanced democratic audience. The premiere, held in Berlin on June 18, 1821, was an exceptional success – the opera was welcomed not only as an outstanding artistic phenomenon, but also as a work of great patriotic significance.


“Free Shooter” – one of the best creations of the German national romantic theater. Turning to the genre of singspiel, Weber applied unusual for him wide opera forms, saturating them with drama, richness of psychological shades. Along with the unfolded musical portraits of the main characters, a significant place in the opera is occupied by everyday scenes closely connected with the German folk song. Fantastic episodes and musical landscapes in which the color richness of Weber’s orchestra were manifested are vividly expressive.

A large overture is built on the musical themes of the opera. The melodic melody of the French horn, in the embodiment of the poetry of ancient hunting legends, depicts a romantically mysterious picture of the forest. The main section of the overture is devoted to the depiction of opposing forces. It ends with a dazzlingly solemn code.

In the first act on the background of cheerful mass scenes there are various musical characteristics. Choral introduces a picture of a peasant festival, its music is of a national character; the march sounds like it’s performed by rural musicians; naivety and simplicity of expression are distinguished by a simple rural waltz. The sharp aria of Max’s aria “The grief is chained, like chains,” full of turmoil and anxiety. In the drinking song Kaspara “What would we have been without wine” carry a sharp rhythm, the impetuosity of movement. His image further develops in the aria “No, no, he must perish,” where the angular melody is combined with the rhythms of a frenzied devilish dance.

The second act is divided into two sharply opposing pictures. Graceful Arietta carefree Anchen “A young man, if beautiful” sets off the depth of emotions and spiritual purity of Agatha in her aria-scene “I’m falling asleep without waiting”; the alternation of expressive recitative and captivating song melodies truly conveys the spiritual movements of the girl, the final part of the aria is full of brilliance, light and joy.

In the second picture, the dramatic tension is growing. The decisive role here is assigned to the orchestra. Unusually sounding chords, gloomy, deaf voices, horror-wailing invisible choir create a mysterious, fantastic picture. In the central episode – the scene of casting magic bullets – the music depicts the savage revelry of the devil’s forces with amazing clarity.

The third act consists of two pictures. The first is dominated by calmly idyllic moods. Cavatina Agatha “The crowds are walking in the sky of the clouds” covered with poetic, light sadness. In soft gentle tones painted chorus of girlfriends, sensitively recreating the features of national songs.

The second picture opens with a temperamental chorus of hunters, in the melody of which echoes of hunting horns are heard; This choir, close to German folk songs, has gained worldwide fame. The finale of the opera is a detailed ensemble scene with a chorus, at the end of which a musical theme sounds with a joyful ascent, already familiar from the overture and the final part of the Agatha aria from the second act.

1 In German, “Freyushun”. The opera is also known as the “Magic Shooter”.

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Summary Karl Maria Weber. Free Shooter