It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin. It is considered the first important German Romantic opera, especially in its national identity and stark emotionality. The plot is based on the German folk legend of the Freischütz and many of its tunes were inspired by German folk music. Its unearthly portrayal of the supernatural in the famous Wolf's Glen scene has been described as "the most expressive rendering of the gruesome that is to be found in a musical score".
In 1841, Hector Berlioz added a ballet for a production of the opera in Paris. He orchestrated Weber's piano piece Invitation to the Dance for this purpose. While this orchestration soon became principally known as a concert piece in its own right, it also continued to be used in Der Freischütz, at least at the Paris Opera. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky more than once expressed his strong disapproval of this interpolation. In 1873 he described it as "utterly incongruous", "tasteless" and "silly". And in 1879, concerning the production there featuring Gabrielle Krauss as Agatha, he wrote:
Der Freischütz afforded me great pleasure; in many places in the first act my eyes were moist with tears. In the second act Krauss pleased me greatly by her wonderful rendition of Agathe's aria. The Wolf's Glen was staged not at all as splendidly as I had expected. The third act was curious because of the French brazenness with which they took the liberty, on the one hand, of insertingInvitation à la valse with the most stupid dances, and, on the other, of cutting out the role of the hermit who appears at the end for the dénouement.