Aung San Suu Kyi is guest director of this year's Brighton festival – albeit at long distance, due to concerns she might not be permitted to return to Burma should she leave. A keen admirer of Beethoven, she requested the festival tackle Fidelio, and the work was accordingly given a concert performance of extraordinary resonance that more than compensated for its occasional flaws. Adám Fischer conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Brighton Festival Chorus, the juxtaposition of a smallish orchestra with a huge choir mirroring the dynamics of a work in which a personal narrative expands into a vast demand for human freedom. Fischer kept the score at boiling point, his interpretation as much metaphysical as political. The churning figurations beneath Pizarro's aria suggested the eruption of some malevolent spiritual force, while the final ascendency of the powers of good was almost visionary in its elation.

The cast sang with gripping intensity, though Roman Sadnik's easy-voiced Florestan came worryingly adrift from the orchestra in his aria. A couple of raw high notes apart, Janice Watson, her voice bright and gleaming, was a thrilling Leonore. In keeping with Fischer's approach, Andrew Foster-Williams gave us a demonic Pizarro, a very different characterisation from the corrupt bureaucrat he plays in the current Opera North production. The dialogue was replaced by a narration written and spoken by Simon Butteriss, who wisely avoided the kind of intransigent glosses he brought to the OAE's Die Entführung aus dem Serail last year. Much of it was extremely touching, but it also necessitated interrupting the first act finale after the Prisoner's Chorus, precisely at a point where you didn't want the music to stop.

Contributor

Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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