To celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth, Melbourne Opera is thrilled to present Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, conducted by leading international maestro Anthony Negus from 5 – 13 February at The Athenaeum theatre.
Inspired by an actual incident from the French Revolution, Fidelio tells the tale of a woman who dresses as a male prison guard to free her incarcerated husband. The opera touches on themes of freedom, fidelity and integrity melded with some of Beethoven's finest and rarely performed music.
"The composition of Fidelio, his only opera, caused Beethoven much trouble, but he lavished all his love, care and genius upon its creation, and it remains a landmark and one of the great testaments to true humanity, expressed as only he could express it," says Anthony Negus, who recently won a Green Room Award for Melbourne Opera's Tristan and Isolde and is one of the world's leading Wagnerian conductors.
An all-star cast has been assembled under the direction of veteran Hugh Halliday (Opera Australia, English National Opera and countless other esteemed companies), featuring Kirstin Sharpin as Leonora, Australian international stars Warwick Fyfe and Brad Daley as Pizarro and Florestan respectively with current Herald Sun aria winner Rebecca Rashleigh as Marzelline.
Helpmann Award-winning singer, Warwick Fyfe, is considered one of Australia's finest international baritones. Recent appearances include three principal roles with Opera Australia, Alberich (Das Rheingold) for the Japan Philharmonic and Tianjin Symphony Orchestras and Peter (Hansel and Gretel) in Singapore, as well as two operas performed with the Finnish National Opera.
Fresh from performing the title role in Libuše (Smetana) at the Bloomsbury Theatre with University College London Opera, dramatic soprano Kirsten Sharpin will tackle the lead role of Leonora, who disguises herself as Fidelio.
Acclaimed tenor, Bradley Daley has won both critical and popular praise for some of opera's most expansive tenor roles – Siegfried, Der Kaiser, Otello, Florestan, Canio, Don José and Erik. Most notable have been his interpretations of Mao Tse-tung (Nixon in China) and the tenor solos in The Dream of Gerontius.
Rising soprano Rebecca Rashleigh (2019 Herald Sun Aria winner), is returning to Melbourne Opera following her celebrated supporting role as Clotilde in Norma in 2019, along with the acclaimed Melbourne Opera Chorus and Orchestra.
"People disappearing into political prisons, autocracy, corruption and battles for power remains as relevant today as it sadly will be tomorrow. We enter this world through an intimate setting in 1990s Eastern Europe. The Athenaeum theatre is the perfect size to achieve this, where a closeness with the audience evokes the claustrophobia of a prison and makes palpable the prisoner's gasps as they are released into the sun," says director Hugh Halliday.
Halliday has dedicated this production to late lighting designer Scott Allan, who designed the first staging of Melbourne Opera's Fidelio in 2013. Scott's assistant lighting designer, Travis McFarlane, will light this production with Scott's original design.
Melbourne Opera, which receives no government funding, is Victoria's busiest professional opera company, with four or five main stage productions each year. In addition to Fidelio, 2020 will see the company produce Wagner's Das Rheingold, Verdi's Macbeth, Kurt Weill's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and The Marriage of Figaro, the latter featuring members of the Richard Divall Emerging Artists Programme. The company gives emerging singers and musicians invaluable professional experience in the company of distinguished experienced artists. As well as mainstream repertoire, Melbourne Opera is committed to presenting lesser-known masterpieces.
Sung in German with English surtitles, Fidelio follows Melbourne Opera's widely acclaimed production of Bellini's Norma in September 2019.
The company will also present a Gala Extravaganza, to celebrate the opening of Ian Potter Queen's Hall on 19 February, hosted by Melbourne Opera's founding patron Lady Potter AC CMRI.