Jonathan Burton in Fidelio.
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Libretto by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly
Directed by Lillian Groag
Conductor, Joseph Mechavich
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Ah, liebe!!! What would you do if you spent two years without hearing from your beloved spouse or partner, listening to rumors that he/she had died? Do you accept the hearsay or do you eke out the truth? In the case of our heroine Leonore you take your child to a safe place, camouflage yourself as a man named Fidelio and search high and low for your husband.
Leonore (Kara Shay Thompson) believes that her husband is in a prison outside of Seville where she begins to work with the jailer Rocco (Dean Patterson). While under Rocco’s employ Fidelio meets Rocco’s daughter Marzelline (Katy Lindhart) who falls in love with him and assistant jailer Jaquino (Marco Cammarota), who is madly in love with Marzelline. Seeing his daughter’s love for Fidelio, Rocco blesses a union between them, much to Jaquino’s chagrin. In an effort to postpone the nuptials and keep Marzelline at bay for a while longer Fidelio convinces Rocco to allow the prisoners time in the sun. Swayed by Fidelio’s compassion Rocco, with the help of Marzelline and Jaquino, release the prisoners into the garden all while Fidelio scans each face to look for her husband. Rocco lets slip that there is another prisoner deep within the prison who is sentenced to die by the hand of Don Pizarro (Mark Walters), the governor of the prison. Courage shored up, Fidelio asks Rocco if she can accompany him in preparing the prisoner’s grave.
In the bowels of the prison lies Florestan (Jonathon Burton), Leonore’s husband who was imprisoned because of his voice for the people. Upon entering the cell Fidelio is immediately drawn to the languishing prisoner and promises to help him. Florestan does not recognize his wife. While a way to escape is being devised, Don Pizarro makes his way to kill Florestan. An encounter in which Fidelio produces a gun and stands between Pizarro’s knife and her husband and reveals herself as Leonore, Florestan’s wife. With trumpets blaring of the arrival of Don Fernando (Charles Zachary Owen), the Minister of State, Pizarro escapes, only to be caught once again and brought to justice. Upon hearing of the indignities that Florestan and the other prisoners endured, Don Fernando gives them their freedom and Leonore unshackles her husband’s chains while all about her sing of the praises of a loving wife such as Leonore.
For those of you unfamiliar with Heir van Beethoven’s only opera, he employed a musical device that was common in the late 18th Century called Singspiel (zing shpeel), a form of light German opera with spoken dialogue. Fortunately, Fidelio uses this device sparingly, and when it is used, it helps to move the scene along to the next musical motif. Some people like it, some don’t. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with it and our principles in tis production flow through the transitions with ease.
As the curtain rises we are greeted to a humble family’s living room with a dropped screen background. But as the screen rises for the next Act we see what looks like the remains of battle: rubble, steel, brokenness and an idol of the arts in ruin and disrepair. Gray and darkness permeate the stage. Upon Mark Walters’ first notes of Don Pizarro’s Ha, welch ein Augenblick! (Ha! What a moment) I could not wait to see what else was in store. A rich and bountiful sound echoed through his evil and sinister character. I hated myself for wanting to hear Don Pizarro sing more.
Dean Peterson’s Rocco was vocally pleasing, reaching deep to deliver some difficult bottom notes. Marco Cammarota’s Jaquino, in my opinion, doesn’t get as much singing interaction as he should. Having heard his full tenor abilities in The King’s Man last season, I was ready for more. Katy Lindhart is a fabulous love-struck young Marzelline, with a seemingly effortless low to high soprano range, who effectively uses the stage in her performance. Charles Zachary Owen, dashing and regal as Don Fernando, certainly used his talented bass to portray a man driven by what is right and wrong.
As the curtain rose for the second act and Jonathon Burton’s Florestan began singing Gott! Welch Dunkel hier! (God, What darkness here) I literally had chills. Mr. Burton’s ability to bring depth and emotion through his glorious tenor to relay the pain, suffering, and exhaustion of Florestan is mesmorizing. Through his duet with Leonore in O namenlose Freude! (Oh unnamed Joy!) one can truly sense that life had been breathed once again and good had triumphed over evil.
Ms. Kara Shay Thomson. She gets better and better with everytime I hear her lush and enticing voice. Her Leonore/Fidelio is no exception. From Leonore‘s Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern (Come, hope let the last star) dreaming and praying for her husband, to Fidelio’s Wie kalt ist es in diesem unterirdischen Gewölbe! (How cold it is down here!), Ms. Thomson shows fantastic range and versatility. Not to mention, a huge nod to the make-up artists and costumers that had the task of making the lovely Ms. Thomson less womanly.
O welche Lust (Oh what a Joy) it is such a bright, shiny penny of a moment in what is considered a dark opera and the male Chorus did well. I will say that when the whole of the chorus came on stage for the final scene, there seemed to be some disjointedness, but nothing too distracting. Our beloved Kentucky Opera Chorus are a very talented troupe of singers and entertainers. I add the entertainers because while singing Wer ein holdes Weib errungen (He who has a good wife) I noticed at least one set of couples, who happened to be married, perform with the same feeling that one would think that a loving couple experience upon being reunited after such a long period of time. Also, to the families that had their own families on stage too. I like that kind of interaction. It makes the show more personal and believable.
I will close with this, Madam Director Groag, I liked what you did in the end. It was a statement worth exploring. Thank you.
Political intrigue, loss, revenge, good over evil and love….yes….this opera has it all.
Friday, September 19, 2014 @ 8:00pm
Sunday, September 21, 2014 @ 2:00pm
W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre
315 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]