Santa Fe Opera’s Triumphant Fidelio

21/07/2014

United StatesUnited States  Beethoven, Fidelio: Soloists, Harry Bicket (conductor), Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 12.7.2014 (RDA)

Fidelio- Photo Santa Fe Opera

Fidelio- Photo Santa Fe Opera


Cast:
Alex Penda (Leonore)
Paul Groves (Florestan)
Manfred Hemm (Rocco)
Greer Grimsley (Don Pizarro)
Devon Guthrie (Marzelline)
Joshua Dennis (Jacquino)
Evan Hughes (Don Fernando)
Joseph Dennis (First Prisoner)
Patrick Guetti (Second Prisoner)

Production:
Conductor: Harry Bicket
Director: Stephen Wadsworth
Scenic Design: Charlie Corcoran
Costume Design: Camille Assaf
Lighting Design: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master: Susanne Sheston

From the moment the Santa Fe Opera house lights dimmed, with a hint of sunlight still lingering above the surrounding hills, it was impossible not to be caught up in the drama of Fidelio, Beethoven’s early opera. Though the final moments were impressive, with the sunburst of lighting designer Duane Schuler’s stage lights bathing the stage, the performance itself served up mixed results. The fine principals and a wonderful chorus reminded me that opera is alive, well and even thriving in the hinterlands, notwithstanding the troubling news of contentious negotiations at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Bulgarian soprano Alex Penda was a physically diminutive, hugely dramatic, vocally superlative Leonore, always attentive to details, completely convincing as the old jailer’s apprentice boy. She was never better than in her Abscheulicher aria, which she sang with the abandon and fierceness listeners have come to expect from the great interpreters of this role. To that list her name should now be added.

A friend in Cincinnati shared his concerns over Paul Groves essaying the punishing role of Florestan. After witnessing the struggle of the ever-reliable tenor, the friend was right. In his dungeon aria, “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!” Groves made it through the impossibly difficult final passage, and managed to his own in the encounter with Pizarro, and later, in the “O! Namelose Freude” duet.

The German basso Manfred Hemm was an affecting, effective Rocco. Devon Guthrie, as Marzelline, brought more voice than one might expect, and made a fine impression as a lovely, though conflicted young woman. Joshua Dennis (Jacquino), Evan Hughes (Don Fernando), Joseph Dennis (First Prisoner), and Patrick Guetti (Second Prisoner) were uniformly fine in their brief assignments. But it was Greer Grimsley, a world-class bass-baritone, who all but ran off with the show as a demonically coiled, tormented–-and tormenting–-Pizarro.

Chorus master Susanne Sheston prepared her group well for the stirring entrance in Act I, and later they shook the rafters in the finale of Act II. Harry Bicket led, firmly and freely, the Santa Fe Opera orchestra and singers.

The production, directed by Steven Wadsworth, was set in the final days of World War II, and did so with variable results, helped now and then by Charlie Corcoran’s multi-tiered set and Camille Assaf’s 1940’s wartime garments. Several textual changes were made in Joseph Sonnleithner’s libretto. In the resolution of the opera’s final moments, a couple of Union Jacks were dropped over balcony railings and a platoon of RAF men arrested not only Pizarro but the hapless Jacquino and the ever-unlucky Marzelline, all causing unwelcome titters from the audience.

But in the end, notwithstanding directorial embellishments, Beethoven, justice, and love–plus a fine cast, chorus and orchestra–came through triumphantly.

Rafael de Acha

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Aldeburgh Festival from 12 – 28 June 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2020 from 29 April to 16 May in Leicester __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and more in Buenos Aires during 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH CHINESE SOPRANO HUI HE __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! BEST OF 2019 FROM SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR TOM HAMMOND IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Ballet Icons Gala 2020 at the London Coliseum on 26 January __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • PIANIST JAMES LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month