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Friday, February 3, 2017

Dramatic, suspenseful, colorful: 'The Magic Marksman' from the Virginia Opera

Corey Bix and Joseph Barron appear in "The Magic Marksman." [Virginia Opera]
By David Siegel

“It’s a suspenseful thriller, with passionate romance and the struggle between good and evil.” That is how Adam Turner, principal conductor at the Virginia Opera, describes “The Magic Marksman,” the opera’s next offering at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax Feb. 4 and 5.

“It’s basically a story of boy loves girl, girl loves boy, but boy must win a shooting competition to win the girl. Because of his recent bad luck he decides to bargain with the Devil in exchange for a perfect shot,” Turner says.

With a haunting score by Carl Maria von Weber, “The Magic Marksman” (Der Freischütz) is “a highly entertaining opera, full of spooky, suspenseful, supernatural elements, with the central theme of a man’s passionate struggle,” saysTurner. “It has a ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’-like mood to it.”

The von Weber score is dramatic, suspenseful, and colorful. “Our audiences will be chilled to the bone by Weber’s unique orchestration,” Turner says. Weber paved the way for composers of the European Romantic Era.

To make the opera even more accessible to audience members, it will be sung in English. The Virginia Opera commissioned a new English translation courtesy of “The Magic Marksman” director Stephen Lawless and writing partner Dan Dooner. “It has a stylistic approach mirroring that of 19th-century American author Washington Irving,” saysTurner.

The Center for the Arts is hosting a pre-show “Opera UpClose” discussion 45 minutes before each performance led by Glenn Winters.

“I tailor my discussions to illustrate that opera composers can employ all the same literary devices used by novelists: point of view, foreshadowing, symbolism, and so forth,” Winters notes. “I also enjoy pointing out how operatic music can reveal the psychology of the characters or serve as a mirror of the society and era in which it was created.”

Winters says that in its own way “The Magic Marksman” could be seen as the great-grandfather of “Star Wars Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back” with Luke Skywalker, Yoda, and Darth Vader. He will explain that in his pre-show chat.

Performers featured in “The Magic Marksman” include Corey Bix, seen in last year’s Virginia Opera production of another supernatural thriller, “The Flying Dutchman,” and dramatic soprano Kara Shay Thomson, who will make her Virginia Opera debut, joining opera favorites Katherine Polit and Jake Gardner.

“The Magic Marksman” may be a less-well-known opera, but Turner makes clear that with its reality twists, forays into the supernatural, and lush dramatic music, it will mesmerize.

Where and when: “The Magic Marksman,” presented by the Virginia Opera, at George Mason University, Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax. Performances: Saturday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 5, 2 p.m. The pre-show discussion is 45 minutes before each performance. Tickets are $54, $90, and $110. Purchase tickets online or call 888-945-2468.

This piece originally appeared in The Connection.

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