• The Music of FIDELIO

    By COC Staff

    Beethoven’s Fidelio kicks off our 2023/2024 season in style, appearing on the COC stage for the first time in 15 years! The legendary composer’s only opera is a triumphant hymn to justice and freedom, scoring a timeless, revolutionary tale with some of the art form’s most powerful music.

    Making its Canadian premiere, this brand-new production debuted at San Francisco Opera to much fanfare in the fall of 2021. Acclaimed director Matthew Ozawa transports the action from an 18th-century jail to a contemporary state prison, complete with massive steel cages, industrial neon lights, and television screens, all revolving to new positions as the story develops. Critics celebrated the show and its bold creative direction, applauding “Ozawa and his design team [who] gave the opera a bracing 21st-century resonance.” (Classical Voice)

    For Beethoven, Fidelio presented a major challenge amidst a period of intrepid musical innovation. What began as an abandoned collaboration with Emanuel Schikaneder—librettist for such famous operas as Mozart’s The Magic Flute—resulted in extensive revisions over two decades from its first performance (1805) to final publication (1826). Tortured by composing the work, Beethoven not only famously exclaimed that “this opera will win me a martyr’s crown,” but even vowed to never compose another opera upon its completion. Of course, while many attribute Fidelio’s difficulties to the composer’s notorious perfectionism, this period also coincides with Beethoven’s struggles with hearing loss, which led him to give up performing in public altogether in the same year he finished Fidelio’s final score.

    Throughout its history, Fidelio and its unforgettable music have become symbols of resistance and revolution around the world. Indeed, the original premiere occurred mere days after Napoleon’s army occupied Vienna. Over a century later, Fidelio became the first opera performed in Berlin after World War II in September, 1945; and the first opera performed upon the Siener Staatsoper’s reopening in 1955. Four weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Beethoven’s work again marked an important historical moment, as its first performance at the Semperoper Dresden coincided with protests and demonstrations—seen within the walls of the opera house in an uproarious applause for the show’s inspiring “Prisoners’ Chorus.” 

    Amidst these personal challenges and revolutionary legacy, Fidelio persists as an undeniable force of musical inspiration. From the overture onward, Beethoven’s score promises light at the end of a dark tunnel, providing glimpses of the triumphant melodies that punctuate celebrations of love and liberty at the show’s end. Below, enjoy a taste of this inspiring score with a preview of our fall production, featuring the COC Orchestra performing Fidelio’s Overture.

    Join us for Beethoven’s Fidelio, opening Friday, September 29, and running until Friday, October 20.


    Header Photo: Cory Weaver
    Posted in 23/24 Season


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