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Fidelio - Vancouver Opera

weather: mostly sunny
outside: 7.4°C
mood: ...
I love the familar steady drone of the A above middle-C eminating from the pit orchestra that signals to even an inexperienced crowd to Park Your Ass and STFU™. XD


I don't think anyone would disagree with me much when I say that, on the scale of preferences, travelling to New York to see a Met production ranks a little higher than a dress rehearsal. Not that that would prevent the possibility of sitting behind someone with a fat head that just so happened to block the most important bit of the stage where most of the action was.

It's probably not entirely fair of me to say anything about the dress rehearsal, to begin with, but I'm going to anyway. =)

I was at the dress rehearsal of the Vancouver Opera production of Fidelio.

The story is timeless. Illegal detainment and torture of political prisoners for speaking the truth, disagreeing in one way or another is as front and centre to us today as it was in the World War II era, as it was when Napoleon dominated Europe, time and time before, and time and time again hereafter.

For this production, a non-descript prison in the Cold War era was chosen. Even though the Vancouver Opera website says it's an eastern European location, the multicultural nature of the ethnic backgrounds in the cast, chorus and supernumeraries makes the location very difficult to pinpoint. Well, that makes it either very easy or very difficult to pinpoint, depending on your context. =)

I still think that German is a bit abrupt and awkward for opera in certain places. At least for me, there's a tiny pause-and-hiccoughing feeling in some places that catches me. I don't get that catching feeling with French or Italian. But I find Beethoven a lot smoother than, say, Wagner.

I was very impressed with the use of the main backdrop.

There was an enormous "wall" which was a sheer-ish material on a 3 or 4 story scaffolding. The sheer-ish material was painted with a large brick pattern that was visible when the light shone on it at an angle.

There was an invisible ghoulish splatter pattern along the top that was only visible to the audience when the light came right through it from behind it. With a bright red backlight, it alluded to dried blood splatter. With a white backlight, it was a thick, heavy and miserable rain splatter.

Sometimes, there were images projected on to the wall for ambience or reminiscence. At the end, the wall came apart in two pieces, one-third and two-thirds of the length. In the scene itself, the prison doors had opened and the prisoners were freed. But it was symbolic of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The most amazing use of this wall was during Pizarro's introductory scene where he's asserting his dominance over his staff — and Tom Fox is a fantastic dramatic baritone, BTW.

The wall was at an acute angle to the edge of the stage. While he's at stage right, facing the audience with his left arm almost pointed directly out in front of him, his shadow is about ¾ the height of the wall, but facing to the left directly at the prison staff with his arm pointed directly at them. Pizarro's character was meant to intimidate and be very intimidating. His giant shadow on the wall was a really neat and very apt visual effect.

What was even more amazing was, in the same scene, when Rocco was cowering in response to Pizarro's posturing. Rocco was positioned on Pizarro's left. The wall was angled such that Rocco's shadow on the wall was ironically bigger than Pizarro's.

         That          nearly          blew          me          away.

It says Rocco is A Bigger Man™, in the metaphysical sense. It alludes to the Napoleon Complex and I thought that was so very clever in the way they did that. It's true to Pizarro as a tyrant. And it's an incredibly deft homage to the original 1805 production when the French military, under the Emperor Napoleon, had its iron grip over most of Europe.

Very, very well done.

Minor gaffs, which I'm sure the production crew will get sorted out before opening night:

  • spelling errors in the subtitles... "Oh Go," for "Oh, God" and a few others I don't remember now.
  • the cast list on the website is "in order of vocal appearance", but Marzelline was on stage before Leonore.
  • the mad humming projector for the subtitles. They tried to muffle it, but they can't do too much because the muffling foam causes it to overheat too. It might be time for new quieter projector.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
sophia
Mar. 23rd, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
how's your italian classes, are you still taking them?
bride
Mar. 23rd, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
No, I wound up not taking another class after the first Beginner's course =P

I bought a bunch of Italian readers for self-study, but it's really hard to get into it =\

I've been writing error messages and sort-of corresponding with the guys in our Rome office though, but that doesn't really count.

Oh oh! I pointed out a grammar boo-boo once! I pointed out that "sistema" was a masculine noun when someone made it a feminine. The guys were very impressed XD
sophia
Mar. 23rd, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
oh that would not have been possible for me...perhaps if i took another romance language before.

in our beginner's course we didn't even learn that verbs had so many forms. i doubt i would have ever understood without a human teacher.

sistema: wow that's cool :P and writing error messages too
unfinishedsong1
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:44 am (UTC)
Nice review of the show. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who notices those things with the shadows. I don't know if that was done intentionally, but I have a feeling that it was.

I didn't notice a lot of noise from the projector, but it is a comment that I have heard before. Were you sitting near the back of the hall? That's usually where people are when they make that comment.
bride
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:54 am (UTC)
We had Mezzanine tickets. I was almost right under the projector. =)
unfinishedsong1
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:01 am (UTC)
Well, there you have it. I was down in the orchestra level! :-)

Once they finally finish the renovations on the QE, hopefully those sorts of complaints will be a thing of the past.

If they really wanted to spend money, they could get the little screens that go on the backs of every seat so everyone has their own subtitle screen. They have those at the Met in NY....so I've been told...
bride
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:07 am (UTC)
Ooo, that would be fantastic!

They would probably have a lot more room to make the subtitles clearer that way. I found it confusing to try to figure out who was saying what sometimes.

I have to get myself out to the Met one day... I keep _saying_ that =D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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