OPERA / Fidelio - Royal Opera House

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The Independent Culture
Was it the unseasonably close weather that debilitated the revival of Adolph Dresen's Fidelio? That might have been a contributing factor, but the constricting sets and limp staging would probably have been a dramatic dead weight under the best of conditions. If there was a way of making a virtue out of the claustrophobic womb/coalmine dungeon set, revival director Astrid Vehstedt didn't find it. Too often the cast simply stood or sauntered about, acting themselves only for intermittent bits of half-hearted stage business - Rocco's puzzling rope tricks in Act 1, for instance, or Leonore's strangely fruitless shovelling in the half-excavated grave. And surely bringing the prisoners out before Beethoven's quiet string introduction is dramatic tautology.

Musically this Fidelio was on the whole secure both on stage and in the pit, but tingle-inducing moments were few and short-lived. Thomas Sunnegardh's soliloquy as Florestan at the beginning of Act 2 brought the only moments of sustained intensity. Gabriela Benackova's Leonore was particularly disappointing: physically static and often expressively monochrome. At least Gregory Yurisich had an excuse for his generally lustreless Don Pizarro - a recent dose of English flu. Otherwise it was sad and frustrating to see Beethoven's tremendous vision inspiring so little fervour.

Also 1, 7, 10, 13, 17 Oct, Royal Opera House (071-240 1066)

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