West Bay Opera’s production of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio opened on Friday, February 16, 2018 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, its home in Palo Alto, California. Both the opera and the opera company deserve kudos. The opera is charming, the music beautiful and the story very dramatic. West Bay Opera made it their own with top- notch artists, cleaver additions, wonderful sets, costumes and the wonderful live orchestra. Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven is sung In German, with English titles.
Opera at the Lucy Stern Theatre is a very different experience than being at a large opera house like the Civic Opera House in Chicago where I enjoy Lyric Opera of Chicago performances. What I love about the Lucy Stern Theatre is the intimacy, the feeling as an audience member that I am part of the action. I also enjoy the large size print and placement of the supertitles, which I can read and continue to follow the action, which enhance the consistently outstanding productions envisaged by General Director, José Luis Moscovich.
Fidelio began as an opera in three acts but was revised to the two act opera that was received with positive reviews when it premiered at the Theater an der Wien- Vienna- November 20, 1805 and has remained popular ever since. “West Bay Opera presents Beethoven’s only opera: Fidelio. Florestan has been chained to a rock at a high-security prison, for his attempt to bring to light Pizarro’s corruption and wrongdoing. Florestan’s intrepid wife, Leonore, disguised as a young man who calls himself Fidelio, gets herself hired into the prison and works tirelessly to free Florestan and other political prisoners. Beethover’s only opera is an ode to freedom and the power of the human spirit, and a reminder that a single person can make a difference.”
The cast for this production is truly outstanding and includes New York-based heldentenor Brent Turner as Florestan, and dramatic soprano Meredith Mecum in the title role. Ben Brady sings Rocco and Krassen Karagiozov appears as Pizarro. Marzelline is sung by Kate Fruchterman and Don Fernando by Kiril Havezov. Tenor Carmello Tringali sings Jaquino and Jackson Beaman and Steven Boisvert sing first and second prisoner, respectively.
Set in a contemporary for-profit American prison, the sets designed by Peter Crompton are compelling and perfect for the story. Callie Floor’s costumes enhance the look and feel of the production, while video projections by Frédéric Boulay add interest and humor. The makeup design by Lisa Cross completes the picture.
The “Prisoners’ Chorus” (O welche Lust—”O what a joy”), an ode to freedom sung by a chorus of political prisoners is a known standout in this opera and it certainly did not disappoint in this production. This felt like a “breath of fresh air”, a joy to hear.
Outstanding, too, was the Florestan’s (Brent Turner’s) aria as he envisions Leonore an angel come to rescue him. The final scene in which the rescue takes place., the finale celebrates Leonore’s bravery with alternating contributions of soloists and chorus and repeatedly says the “Never can we over praise a wife who saver her husband”. I would say of this production as well that it would be hard to over praise. It was a wonderful experience that you should not miss.
Showtimes: February 24, at 8:00 p.m. and February 25, at 2:00 p.m.
More information about Fidelio by Ludwig Beethoven
Click for tickets and more information about the West Bay Opera Company
All photos: Otak Jump