Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

FIDELIO

Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff , October-01-10
FIDELIO by Welsh National Opera Drama for Beethoven was more about music than theatre and that was one of the reasons why he wrote just a single opera.

Fidelio, nonetheless, is considered to be one of the greatest ever written, as it enshrines the noble sentiments of justice, freedom and undying love.

But staging it remains problematic. Those sentiments are forever on the verge of running away from the characters who embody them, and directors with a political agenda have always had a field day with it.

Italian director Giuseppe Frigeni premiered his pared version of Fidelio - now a first at WNO - for the Opéra National de Bordeaux, where he also designed the set and the lighting, increasingly an option for directors who want to take complete control in a Wagnerian sense.

His training as a choreographer clearly encouraged him to deal with Beethoven's static stage action in a stylised manner, the result sometimes resembling the work of a puppet-master as characters move about the stage just for the sake of it and the giant, prisoners’ cage is irritatingly manhandled.

But with Fidelio one is inclined to be charitable. ‘Valiant’ could describe both Frigeni’s efforts and the attempts by Lisa Milne as the heroine Leonore to sing a role for which she is not quite ready, though Dennis O’Neill as the prisoner Florestan is not half as bad as some lugubrious first-night reviews made out.

Clive Bayley’s Rocco is outstanding, Robert Hayward’s Pizarro is chillingly mad if a little stiff in appearance, Robin Tritschler’s Jaquino a tad undersung and Elizabeth Donovan’s Marzelline trippingly coquettish.

Conductor Lothar Koenigs and the orchestra had grown inspirational by this, the third, performance and the chorus thankfully took its cue from them.

Reviewed by: Nigel Jarrett

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