A Convincing Fidelio Returns to La Scala

ItalyItaly Beethoven, Fidelio: Teatro all Scala Orchestra and Chorus / Myung-Whun Chung (conductor), Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 18.6.2018. (JMI)

Fidelio. Credit: Brescia/Amisano, Teatro alla Scala
La Scala’s Fidelio (c) Brescia/Amisano/Teatro alla Scala

Leonore – Ricarda Merbeth
Florestan – Stuart Skelton
Don Pizarro – Luca Pisaroni
Rocco – Stephen Milling
Marzelline – Eva Liebau
Jaquino – Martin Pinkorski
Don Fernando – Martin Gantner
Prisoners – Massimiliano Di Fino and Marco Granata

Direction – Deborah Warner
Sets and Costumes – Chloe Obolensky
Lighting – Jean Kalman (original), Valerio Tiberi (revival)

Beethoven’s opera has returned to La Scala in a production that opened the 2014-2015 season – the last season with Daniel Barenboim as musical director. Deborah Warner brings the action up to modern times with a single stage where high walls, representing the prison, open in the final scene to give way to the townspeople and the prisoners. Lighting plays an important role, costumes are well suited to the modern setting and the stage direction is competent, without offering anything spectacular. In short, it is a production that serves the plot nicely.

I have to confess that I expected more from Myung-Whun Chung. His conducting seemed more academic than romantic but always very controlled, and there were nuances worthy of one’s appreciation. The strength of his conducting improved in the second part, and both the orchestra and the chorus gave solid performances. The opera did not start with the overture called ‘Fidelio’ but with ‘Leonore No.3’ instead.

Fidelio (or Leonore) was sung by soprano Ricarda Merbeth who is always admirable in the roles she performs, although there are better alternatives to her voice for this character. The best part of her performance was the duet with Florestan in Act II; she fell a bit short in her great scene of Act I.

Florestan was played by tenor Stuart Skelton, and the result was somewhat irregular. His opening of the second act with the always expected ‘Gott!’ was spectacular – the best I have heard along with the one that Jonas Kaufmann sang in Valencia seven years ago. Then the problems began, as they do for many others: it is well known that Beethoven was a musical genius but not too friendly when writing for tenors.

Bass Stephen Milling in the part of Rocco had a broad and attractive voice. Luca Pisaroni also gave a good performance in the part of Don Pizarro, whose tessitura suits his voice well. I do think he is better off with more noble characters: his voice lacks that touch of darkness needed for these devilish ones.

Eva Liebau did well as Marzelline, and a good impression was left by tenor Martin Piskorski as Jaquino. Martin Gantner was a correct Don Fernando

José M. Irurzun

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