Holocaust Grafted to Beethoven

[from the New York Times]

by Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim

FIDELIO-master675Santa Fe Opera Sets ‘Fidelio’ in a Concentration Camp

No audience members staggered out of the Santa Fe Opera House in search of assistance on Thursday evening after Stephen Wadsworth’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” inspired by Bergen-Belsen. This wasn’t Burkhard C. Kosminski’s staging of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” which last year upset audience members in Düsseldorf, Germany, so much with its graphic depiction of gassings and shootings that some required medical attention. Mr. Wadsworth’s concentration-camp spin on the tale of a political prisoner who is liberated by his wife after she has disguised herself as a man and apprenticed with the prison warden was perfectly tasteful.

As such, I found it especially offensive.

To be sure, Mr. Wadsworth is only the latest director to set Beethoven’s liberation opera in a recent political context. This summer, a former East German prison in Cottbus, which had once housed political dissidents, became the backdrop to a production of “Fidelio” that included former inmates in the chorus. There was a site-specific “Fidelio” at the former Soviet prison camp PERM-36 in 2010. Guantánamo has been a point of reference in “Fidelio” productions by opera houses in Seattle; London; and Melbourne, Australia.

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