APO performs Beethoven's only operatic masterpiece Fidelio

On Saturday 8 May the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) will present Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio under the baton of Music Director Giordano Bellincampi and featuring an all-star kiwi cast, led by international opera sensations Kirstin Sharpin and Simon O’Neill.

Audiences can look forward to being swept away by Beethoven’s lyrical genius paired against a story of political and ethical resolve. A so-called “rescue opera” inspired by a true story of the French Revolution, Fidelio tells the story of Leonore whose husband, Florestan has been secretly imprisoned by his political rival – the corrupt and dastardly Don Pizarro. Leonore disguises herself as a young man called Fidelio and, determined to rescue Florestan, secures a job in the prison where he is incarcerated, and gains the trust of gaoler Rocco.

Beethoven’s Fidelio is considered to be the one work of his career that generated the greatest torment and heartache for the notoriously troubled and self-critical composer. It went through two librettists, four overtures and three different premieres before it became the opera we see performed today. Beethoven wrote “Of all my children, this is the one that cost me the worst birth-pains and brought me the most sorrow; and for that reason it is the one most dear to me.”

But despite the challenges of its creation and in the face of Beethoven’s own life of adversity and tragedy, Fidelio celebrates the power of love, courage and the triumph of freedom over oppression. This is aptly expressed in the opera’s most famous moment, the Prisoners’ Chorus ‘O Welche Lust’ where the men emerge from the darkness of the dungeons into the light — a poignant ode to freedom.

Internationally renowned New Zealand artists Kirstin Sharpin and Simon O’Neill take on the principal roles of Leonore/Fidelio and Florestan. They are joined by a stunning cast of Kiwi opera artists; baritone Philllip Rhodes, bass-baritone Paul Whelan, soprano Natasha Wilson, tenor Oliver Sewell and bass-baritone James Ioelu, as well as the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus. The performance will incorporate stage direction from Jacqueline Coats, familiar to audiences through her work with New Zealand Opera, most recently La bohème.

“This Opera in Concert performance of Fidelio forms the centrepiece of the APO’s Beethoven celebrations in our 2021 season that is proving to be very popular with our audiences” says Maestro Bellincampi. It is a grand work that speaks to themes that resonate as strongly today as it did when it was first performed 200 years ago. I can’t wait to share a very special evening of breath-taking music with world-class kiwi opera talent, Auckland’s orchestra and the artistry of one of the greatest composers in history.”

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