Opera Scotland

Fidelio 2013Opéra de Lyon

Read more about the opera Fidelio

Opéra de Lyon returned for a fourth trip to the Edinburgh Festival in twenty years. However this was a great contrast experience with their first visit, which offered well-thought out stagings of Chabrier's Etoile and Debussy's Pelléas, or their second appearance, with Tchaikovsky's rarely performed Mazeppa.

This time things were very different, with a production of Fidelio by pioneering contemporary media artist Gary Hill. This consisted of a wholesale reimagining of Beethoven's great work The performance is deemed to take place on board a doomed spaceship Aniara as it hurtles onwards, packed with survivors from Earth, but themselves unable to steer their own course. This distinctly negative scenario seems a perverse way to stage an opera the whole point of which is to finish in an outburst of joy at the arrival of freedom.

Hill's staging, visually arresting as it no doubt was, seems to have been intended to highlight the universal relevance of Beethoven's themes with compelling video projections and striking costumes. Whether it succeeded in this seems debatable. A great staging of Fidelio will have visually impressive elements, but they should not swamp the music.

The international cast was led by celebrated Japanese conductor Kazushi Ono, who let the orchestra have its head perhaps too freely. One striking aspect of the design was the return of the gauze scrim, a favourite device from four decades or so ago, which used to allow for all sorts of interesting lighting effects and visuals. Scottish Opera had several memorable stagings that used the device in the seventies. But the technique was largely given up when it at last became clear that some voices struggled to project through it - and that was a problem reported by audience members on this occasion.

The cast featured a welcome return to Edinburgh by Nikolai Schukoff (a recent Met broadcast debutant as Don José), Andrew Schroeder and Michael Eder, with impressive debuts by Erika Sunnegårdh as Leonore and Valentina Nafornita as an unusually effective Marzelline.

Aniara, by the way, is the title of a Swedish epic poem by Harry Martinson, from 1956, which was quickly adapted into an opera by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. Soon after its premiere, this was brought to the 1959 Festival by the Stockholm Opera, and was quite well received. Perhaps it is time to see it again, to find out how it withstands the passage of half a century. Would this concept work for that piece? The programme for this Fidelio contained page after page of excellent and erudite information about the opera, but the nature of the concept only got a tiny mention in small print on the cast page, so many of the audience members may have been mystified by events on stage.

Performance Cast

Jaquino Rocco's assistant

Christian Baumgärtel

Marzelline Rocco's daughter

Valentina Nafornita

Rocco gaoler

Michael Eder

Leonore Florestan's wife, disguised as Fidelio

Erika Sunnegårdh

Don Pizarro prison governor

Pavlo Hunka

First Prisoner

Didier Roussel

Second Prisoner

Kwang Soun Kim

Florestan a Spanish nobleman

Nikolai Schukoff

Don Fernando the King's Minister

Andrew Schroeder

Performance DatesFidelio 2013

Map List

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

10 Aug, 19.15 12 Aug, 19.15

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