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Opening tonight: West Bay Opera stages 'Der Freischutz'

 

The German Romantic opera "Der Freischutz," by Carl Maria von Weber, will be staged by West Bay Opera from Feb. 19 through Feb. 28 at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.

The three-act opera features winning arias and choruses, as well as lively folk dances.

It tells the story of Max, a young hunter who must triumph at a shooting contest to win the hand of the woman he loves, Agathe. But life and love are never simple: The plot is complicated by another character's pact with the devil, which threatens the lovers' prospects, to say the least.

This production of "Der Freischutz" -- West Bay's first was in 1990 -- is directed by Yuval Sharon.

The conductor is West Bay General Director Jose Luis Moscovich, who says in an e-mail: "I love and revere this piece, and I have assembled a cast that I believe will do justice to it."

Tenor Ben Bongers sings the role of Max; soprano Paula Goodman Wilder is Agathe; and bass-baritone Peter Graham is Kaspar, a gamekeeper who pledges his soul to the devil.

Also singing key parts are Greg Stapp as the hermit and David Hodgson as Ottokar.

Mr. Moscovich says the singers are all "very exciting vocally, very committed musically and dramatically."

Calling the score "loaded with dramatic opportunity, brilliant, strong and nuanced," he says, "I am very much looking forward to conducting it, and hope to make at least some audience members into 'Freischutz' fans by the time the curtain goes down."

The opera is considered the first major German Romantic opera, and a precursor to the operas of Richard Wagner.

It is being sung in German, with English supertitles. Finding most available translations of the opera inadequate, Mr. Moscovich says he did his own translation for this production, collaborating with diction coach Lea Frey.

Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28. There is also a free preview of the music at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Palo Alto Arts Center, 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto.

For ticket information, call the West Bay box office at 424-9999, or e-mail BoxOffice@WBOpera.org. More information can be found at wbopera.org.

The Lucie Stern Theatre is at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

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