Bohemia, after the Thirty Years War. The huntsman Max loves Agathe, daughter of the head ranger Cuno. Max is eager to win a shooting competition to decide the next head ranger and thereby become eligible to marry Agathe, but loses in a trial. Another huntsman, Caspar, has sold his soul to the evil spirit Samiel, and must bring another victim; Max agrees to get magic bullets from Samiel. Agathe, though soothed by Ännchen, is apprehensive. Max tells her that he must fetch a stag he has shot in the haunted Wolf's Glen. Amid frightening sights and sounds in the Glen, Caspar forges seven bullets for Max; the last is to go where Samiel wills, though Max does not know this. Preparing to marry Max, Agathe prays for protection; she has had bad dreams, but Ännchen again comforts her. Max amazes everyone at the shooting contest with his marksmanship. The Prince orders Max to shoot a passing dove with the seventh, Agathe's voice is heard begging him not to. Max fires. Agathe falls, but it is Caspar who is fatally wounded through Samiel's treachery. Max confesses his pact with Samiel, but is promised forgiveness on the intercession of the Hermit.
"I am trying," says director Vicco von Bülow, also known as Loriot, "to take this opera very seriously and to show all its horror, mystery, piousness and the German forest." Germany's most refinedly witty comedian staged "Der Freischütz" in 1988 at the Ludwigsburg Festival. Von Bülow considers the work "a mixture of comedy, drama, romanticism and deep religiousness." Comedy, however, was not the guiding principle of his production. He relates the story like a tale from some romantic picture-book, in a mysterious, symbolic manner. The stars of the performance were, next to the splendid sets reminiscent at times of the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, the excellent singers and brilliant orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Gönnenwein. Among the singers, the most highly applauded were Uwe Heilmannn as Max, Ulrike Sonntag as Ännchen and Nancy Johnson as Agathe.