(Financial Times) — The coronavirus could not bring down Beethoven’s only opera. When performing arts activities came to a lurching halt last month, the Theater an der Wien transformed into a film studio to document its new Christoph Waltz production of Fidelio six days before it was to take the stage as part of celebrations for the composer’s 250th anniversary.
The broadcast, first aired on Austrian television, reached an international audience through the web platform medici.tv on April 2. The opera about unjust imprisonment during the French Revolution premiered at this very theatre in 1805, although not to great success: Vienna was occupied by Napoleon’s troops, and the nobility — among them, Beethoven’s patrons — had fled the city. The conductor Manfred Honeck opts for the revised version which tightened the action and was unveiled the following year.
Waltz, an Oscar-winning actor in his third stint as opera director, creates a realist but understated dramatic tone that is well-suited to the camera. The imposing set of twisted, concrete stairwells designed by the German-American architects Barkow Leibinger has the potential to grow monotone but proves remarkably telegenic. […]