Der Freischütz (1): Ännchen Lightens Up

Konzerthaus, Gendarmenmarkt


195 years ago (I know, this article should be published in 5 years, so we can say in a more festive tone, “200 years ago”, but patience is not the strong point of this author.), again, as I said, 195 years ago, in June 1821, Carl Maria von Weber conducted the premiere of his opera “Der Freischütz” in Berlin at the “Königliches Konzerthaus” (royal concert house) at the Gendarmenmarkt. The opera was immediately a hit. Its popularity spread throughout Europe. “Der Freischütz” was – and is – seen as the first German romantic opera, whose themes deal with the supernatural, with nature, and emotionality. The libretto, and so the texts I will present today and in the following week, is written in simple, effective language suggestive of folksongs. The poet and dramatist Johann Friedrich Kind wrote the libretto after Weber told him about a story he had read in a ghost story book some years before.

Playbill, premiere

The opera takes place during the 17th century, deep in the woods of Bohemia. The young forester Max has lost a marksman competition. The contest was important to him not only for prestige, but also for the perspective to marry Agathe, daughter of Kuno, the head forester. Kuno presents to Max a challenge: He must succeed in a marksmanship contest the next day, or he will not be able to marry Agathe. Fellow forester Kaspar promises Max a magic bullet that can hit any target and win what his heart desires. Naive as he is, Max agrees to meet him at midnight in the infamous Wolf’s ravine to cast such bullets. Kaspar, however, has been rejected by Agathe and is actually plotting revenge. With the help of the huntsman sorcerer Samiel, Kaspar molds the magic bullets, one of which, as Kaspar hopes, will kill Agathe while she is present at the test.

Meanwhile, Agathe is waiting anxiously for Max in her father’s house. With her is her younger cousin Ännchen (diminuitive of Anna), a light-hearted character. To diffuse Agathe’s fears, Ännchen rhapsodizes in an arietta about an imagined handsome soon-to-be groom.

In this arietta we find a few combinations of words, so called collocations, that help you to memorize faster when you understand their meaning:

kommt gegangen = to arrive
ein schlanker Bursche = a slim fellow (often we say, “großer Bursche”, “starker Bursche”.)
Blicke finden sich = eyes meet, (often we say, “Blicke treffen sich”.)
rot werden = to blush

Other vocabulary:

hell = bright
das Mieder = corsage
verschämt = shy, bashful
verstohlen = secret, furtive, here: to steal a glance
gewahren = to notice
sich trauen = to dare
seufzen = to sigh
der Kranz = here: chaplet

Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen,
A slim young fellow is arriving
Blond von Locken oder braun,
Blond the locks or brown
Hell von Aug’ und rot von Wangen,
Bright the eye and red the cheeks,
Ei, nach dem kann man wohl schaun.
Ah, one can certainly look at him

Zwar schlägt man das Aug’ aufs Mieder
Although one lowers the eyes to one’s corsage
Nach verschämter Mädchenart;
according to the bashful way of girls;
Doch verstohlen hebt man’s wieder,
But secretely one lifts them again,
Wenn’s das Herrchen nicht gewahrt.
When the little man does not notice.

Sollten ja sich Blicke finden,
In case, glances meet,
Nun, was hat das auch für Not?
Well, what distress is that?
Man wird drum nicht gleich erblinden,
One will because of that not go blind at once,
Wird man auch ein wenig rot.
Even though one blushes a little bit.

Blickchen hin und Blick herüber,
A little glance there, a glance back,
Bis der Mund sich auch was traut!
Until the mouth dares something, too!
Er seufzt: Schönste! Sie spricht: Lieber!
He sighs: You most beautiful! She speaks: Dear!
Bald heißt’s Bräutigam und Braut.
Soon it’s called groom and bride.

Immer näher, liebe Leutchen!
Come closer, dear people!
Wollt ihr mich im Kranze sehn?
Do you want to see me under a chaplet?
Gelt, das ist ein nettes Bräutchen,
Well, that is a nice little bride,
Und der Bursch nicht minder schön?
And the young fellow not less beautiful.

In YouTube you can listen to this rendition of “Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen”.


Published by


Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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