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Fidelio scores a ten

Los Angeles
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
09/08/2007 -  09/15, 23, 26, 29 and 10/03, 06
Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio
Anja Kampe (Leonore), Klaus Florian Vogt (Florestan), Matti Salminen (Rocco), Eike Wilm Schulte (Don Pizzaro), Rebekah Camm (Marzelline), Jacquino (Greg Fedderly), Oleg Bryjak (Don Fernando), Robert MacNeil (First Prisoner), James Creswell (Second Prisoner)
Pier’Alli (Director and Designer), Sergio Metalli (Projection Designer), Guido Levi (Lighting Designer), Nicola Bowie (Choreographer)
Stuart Canin (Los Angeles Opera Concertmaster), Grant Gershon (Associate Conductor and Chorus Master)
James Conlon (Conductor)

Ludwig Van Beethoven is a man of worldly recognition. A prolific composer in his time, his works continue to span generation upon generation with a purpose of perpetual enlightenment. Highly regarded for his vast classical works, it is somewhat ironic that this gifted gentleman composed only one opera, but interestingly enough, Fidelio transcends all boundaries by bringing universal relevance irrespective of time.

James Conlon capitalizes on his first successful run with L.A. Opera by selecting a repertoire that carries profound lessons for a secular world: oppression, struggle, loyalty, compassion, and forgiveness. What would be more fitting to inaugurate the 2007-2008 Season than the compelling work of Fidelio.

Beethoven’s opera is anchored by two well-known overtures (Fidelio and Leonore), and Conlon’s musical interpretation is unsurpassed, completing cohesiveness between orchestra and principals. When the curtain rises, Beethoven draws us immediately into the action with the gifted Rebekah Camm as the love-struck Marzelline attempting to restrain the advances of Jacquino, amorously played by Greg Fedderly. Anchoring the first quartet in Act I is the arrival of richly-toned Matti Salminen, the prison warden Rocco, and Fidelio performed by incomparable Anja Kampe, all set against Pier’Alli’s ghoulish prison of impenetrable proportions, complete with chains, towering walls, torture equipment, and a spiked collar, a repetitive reminder of evil servitude.

Fidelio focuses on Anja Kampe and rightfully so, for she is a compelling heroine eliciting human torment directly to the audience as evinced in her powerful solo aria, “Abscheulicher!” All of this is accentuated by Lighting Director, Guido Levi’s ingenious hued compositions. The meticulous blocking of men during the prisoners’ chorus, “O welche Lust”, and the soldiers’ march in Act I are two satisfying examples of Nicola Bowie’s fluid choreography.

Opera-goers are awed by the amazing energies of Sergio Metalli whose role as Projection Designer creates a three-dimensional journey to Florestan’s cellblock by passing through an ominous pathway of torture devices, encroaching walls, and ever present chains. A feeling of utter claustrophobia gives us a realistic sense of personal isolation and impending death.

Alongside Kampe’s title role is the radiant tenor voice of Klaus Florian Vogt, the emaciated Florestan, splayed in tattered cloth, one of Pier’Alli’s many artistic garbs. The tension escalates with Kampe, Vogt, Salminen, and Schulte before the arrival of Bryjak (Don Fernando).

Many times the Leonore III overture after the first scene in Act II is omitted, but the late Edgar Baitzel, chief operating officer of L.A. Opera, expressed his wishes to retain this rendition of Fidelio as was respectfully upheld by Mr. Conlon. After the show-stopping interlude, the audience responded with a standing ovation.

Finally, patrons experience a spectacle of emancipation and ode to joy, if you will, a pièce de résistance complete with bright lights and the breaking of the ring, a shackled reminder of man’s oppression and dire circumstances under tyranny.

This production of Fidelio, on loan from Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain, deserves the highest marks. This production is a perfect “10”. Two standing ovations speak volumes. I strongly urge you to see this riveting work with beautiful music and outstanding artisans.

Christie Grimstad



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