Fidelio at The Royal Opera House
2020 is all about Beethoven, as it marks 250 years since the birth of the composer. As a result, London and the rest of the musical world will be featuring works by the composer to celebrate this occasion. The Royal Opera House is no exception, presenting their new, sold-out adaptation of Fidelio – Beethoven’s only opera. This new rendition is likely to make its mark in the field, with a star-studded cast and team behind it.
Fidelio follows the cross-dressing lead female Leonore, who disguises herself as a prison guard called Fidelio in order to rescue her husband Florestan (Jonas Kaufmann) from death in a political prison. Beethoven made many forward-thinking decisions in his casting and treatment of gender. Firstly, the lead female is the main protagonist, rather than a stereotypical victim, but also there’s the added element of cross-dressing. These decisions elevate Beethoven’s opera, positioning it as a progressive one with themes that are still relevant today: power, loss and love.
Taking on the lead role is opera’s rising star and momentous soprano Lise Davidsen. At 28 years old, Davidsen has shot to fame following her incredible win at the operatic competition Operalia. Since this feat in 2015, she has grown across the world stage. Fidelio is Davidsen’s first starring role in London and she has fulfilled the high expectations imposed upon her. Her voice surpasses the orchestra in full flow, whilst creating beautiful moments of light and shade. She has incredible control and range, with acute acting skills too, creating moments of real, raw emotion that wouldn’t go amiss in the best West End theatres.
Starring alongside her is renowned operatic tenor Kaufmann, who is being kept in isolation underground. Kaufmann always draws audiences from far and wide, but this particular show is bound to be special, being in his native language. Kaufmann uses his entire body to assist in his dark opening aria, with his limbs sprawled across the astonishing set as he attempts to move to its wider perimeters despite being limited by his chains. This creates a lovely contrast to his real elation in the final moments of the scene when he is set free.
The innovative staging by Tobias Kratzer nods to a revolutionary atmosphere; Act II saw the chorus surrounding Florestan positioned on a dark and earthy boulder, making the set feel reactive and real. The chorus’s reactions are projected onto the cyclorama, creating a stark contrast to Florestan’s situation, highlighting his lack of freedom and suffering as he is ostracised by the masses.
Fidelio feels more like an experimental piece of theatre than a traditional opera, with brave staging and a thrilling chorus giving real energy to the incredible score. These decisions have been made in order to bring the production into the realms of today, showing that these themes stand the test of time and that ultimately, anything can be achieved in the name of love.
Photo: Bill Cooper
Fidelio is at The Royal Opera House from 1st March until 17th March 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Fidelio here: