Opera North (Fidelio)
June 19 2021
Royal Concert Hall
Review: William Ruff
A thrilling concert performance of Beethoven’s monument to freedom and hope
I know we’ve got to stop seeing the world through Covid eyes, but it was hard to unravel Opera North’s thrilling performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio on Saturday from our experience of the last sixteen months. It’s an opera about locked-down prisoners, tantalisingly released briefly §into daylight before eventual freedom against the odds.
Beethoven knew a timeless story when he saw one. It’s about a wife who risks everything, going undercover (disguising herself as a man) to expose the secret imprisonment of political prisoners in general – and her own husband in particular.
The single Nottingham performance was a semi-staged concert version at the RCH. So no sets, props, lighting effects, period costumes etc. Did this make the experience less intense than their last production of Fidelio on the Theatre Royal stage? Not a bit. The simplicity of this production gives freedom to the audience’s imagination – as well as ensuring that nothing distracts from the glories of Beethoven’s music and the intensity of interpretation from singers and players.
Opera North fields an A Team of soloists. Rachel Nicholls is a charismatic, ardent Leonore, the wife whose devotion to her husband will stop at nothing. Toby Spence, as the husband Florestan, journeys from despair to the joy of liberty in the arms of his beloved. Fflur Wynn is a bright-eyed, eager Marzelline, bringing touching simplicity to the opera’s opening scene. Brindley Sherratt brings depth and an all-too-human dimension to the role of Rocco, whilst Robert Hayward is disturbingly convincing as the darkly menacing fascist Don Pizarro. Oliver Johnston gives an endearing performance as the spurned lover Jaquino.
The chorus’s acting and singing abilities are equally impressive and provide some of the opera’s most thrilling moments.
One of the many joys of this Fidelio is to have the orchestra on stage, liberated from the pit. Conducted by Paul Daniel, they play like angels.
The Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North
Conducted by Paul Daniel
Rachel Nicholls Leonore
Toby Spence Florestan
Brindley Sherratt Rocco
Fflur Wyn Marzelline
Oliver Johnston Jaquino
Robert Hayward Don Pizarro
Matthew Stiff Don Fernando/Narrator
Stuart Laing Prisoner 1
James Davies Prisoner 2
Staging by Matthew Eberhardt