This is the only opera ever written by my man Ludwig van, and basically tells the story of how a woman named Leonore rescues her husband from prison by disguising herself as a man named Fidelio. While this sounds like it could be the plot of a Carry On film, it’s actually a very good opera written in two acts to a libretto by Joseph von Sonnleithner.
The opera is enthusiastically conducted by Adam Fischer, and tonight he’s leading the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Founded in 1986, the OAE play period instruments that give you an idea of how music would have sounded when it was originally composed. They comprise first and second violins, flutes, piccolo, oboes, violas, bassoons, contra bassoon, horns, trumpets, cellos, trombones, double basses, and timpani and sounded absolutely brilliant. They played with enthusiasm and obvious love for what they do. A real display of impressive musicianship.
As most of the opera in set in a prison, the voices of the prisoners and townsfolk are provided by the Brighton Festival Chorus. Founded for the 1968 Brighton Festival, they’re an in demand choir who have performed all over the country and tonight gave a great performance.
The proceedings are helped along by timely narrations from Simon Butteriss. These contain just enough information to help keep up with proceedings (which are, of course, sung in German) while also adding enough humourous asides to make the whole thing enjoyable to follow.
The main characters of Leonore/Fidelio (Janice Watson), Marzelline (Elena Xanthoudakis), Jaquino (Andrew Staples), and Florestan (Roman Sadnik) are all excellent (at least to my untrained ear) and their combined voices really fill the Dome whilst being incredibly uplifting. I think the measure of a good opera is how accessible it is to your average punter, and for someone like me who was moshing to Fishbone only last week I think Fidelio is extremely accessible and enjoyable. Basically, it’s a good story. After all, a tale of a political prisoner is pertinent in pretty much any century.
Good programming by the Festival organisers.