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Beethoven’s only opera is now a timely political thriller in SF.

Many new operas are making their premieres these days, the most modern opera you are likely to see this season is the one written two centuries ago.

We are talking about “Fidelio”.

With her themes of injustice, inequality, oppression and mass imprisonment – and her portrayal of Leonor, a brave woman who risks everything to get things right – Beethoven’s only opera is a modern thriller. Could be a plot.

And with the new production of the San Francisco Opera, the brilliant soprano Elsa van den Heuer, “Fidelio” can’t help but feel like an opera right now.

Directed by Matthew Ozawa and hosted by SF Opera Music Director Yoon Sun Kim, this “Fidelio” promises the company’s first-ever rare revival after the 2005-06 season, looking at opera through a modern lens. Is.

The production company will launch the new season on October 14 at the War Memorial Opera House, where it will run until October 30. Series off

Van den Heuer says “Fidelio” has always been ahead of his time, singing the lead role of Leonor – disguised as a young man who goes to hell to save her husband, Floristan.

“It was revolutionary then, and it is revolutionary now,” Van den Heuer said during a recent break between rehearsals. “This is the best time to do it.”

Newcomers to the opera are often surprised by Beethoven’s opera, says Suprano, who first came to the San Francisco Opera in 2003 as a singer in the Merola Young Artist program. Since then, it has been acclaimed in opera houses around the world. With its dramatic intensity, Leonor has become one of its signature characters.

“People want to think that opera is in a way a reflection of old paintings and their past,” said Van den Heuer. “But it is certainly an example of the ways in which opera can be modernized. Fidelio is very modern, and the message is here and now.

Russell Thomas, the tanner of his character as a prisoner, says: “I think it’s amazing: the comment that Beethoven made 200 years ago is still relevant today: how these systems of oppression still exist. ”

Tenor Russell Thomas, singing the role of the imprisoned Florist, agrees. As a black artist who has closely watched the Black Lives Pea Movement and “The World’s Focus on Closing People”, he says “Fedelio” offers a rare insight into the issues at the forefront today.

“I think it’s amazing: what Beethoven said 200 years ago is still relevant today: how these systems of oppression still exist,” he said. “And politicians turn a blind eye to it. Emotionally, it informs my performance.

Floristan is a political prisoner, he said, “a boy who spoke out against the system. We don’t know much about him. Besides, he’s a dissenter who is locked up for no reason. That’s why.” That he is hiding, apart from everyone else … I see him as some black man, or someone from the Middle East, who has been locked up somewhere by the US military. Want, maybe they can offer something.

“Who knows? I’m not sure, but for me, I know this story very well. Just think, black men are still in prison for cannabis, and cannabis is now being sold all over the country.” Is.

Beethoven’s original “Fidelio” lived in an 18th-century prison. SF opera turns action into a modern government detention center. (Corey Weaver / San Francisco Opera)

Beethoven famously struggled with the opera about imprisonment during the French Revolution: it took 10 years, and many revisions, from “Fidelio” to its first version, which was originally titled “Leonor”. ۔ But the results eventually came together, and the opera’s message – that love and personal sacrifice can overcome oppression – became one forever. In performance, the effect is both awesome and transcendent.

Director Ozawa, who returned in April after staging the high-powered drive of the SF opera of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at the Marine Civic Center, is leading “Fidelio” in his intense emotional journey. Audience for centuries, highlighting these topics

With the natural design of Alexander V. Nicholas, he has updated the layout of a modern government detention center from an 18th century prison.

Ozawa brings his history to the opera – during World War II, members of his Japanese-American family, including his grandparents, were evicted from their homes in Los Angeles and forced to give up their lands and businesses. , And imprisoned in concentration camps. Her father was born at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, now a national landmark. He said that this legacy informs his staging.

As night falls, the director says “Fidelio” is a ray of hope for every new generation.

“My focus has really been on enabling new audiences to see the humanity of opera,” he said, adding that human collective power would have the power to defeat oppression and shed light on injustice. It’s revolutionary to see this in an opera house.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of “Fidelio” is that Beethoven turned the hero of the opera into a woman. “Observing this woman’s courage and bravery is incredibly powerful,” Ozawa said.

Van den Heuer, he added, is the ideal choice for the role of Leonor. “It’s a shining light,” he said. “Elsa has a power and strength that creates a dynamic where you literally believe and connect for this woman. And because of her power as an actor and as a woman, she’s a part of this story. Looking for elements that I think are really revolutionary.

Contact Georgia Roy at [email protected]


Presented by Ludwig van Beethoven, San Francisco Opera, directed by Matthew Ozawa.

When: October 14-30.

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.

Live Stream: SF Opera will stream performances on October 7 at 7:30 p.m. 2 October 17 October and 7:30 October 20 October

Tickets: $ 26- $ 370 in person, $ 25 live stream

Safety: Proof of vaccination is required for people 12 and older. Need a mask; More details on

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