Dive deeper into Zholdak’s Fidelio

This production will be unlike any Fidelio you’ve seen before. Most reviews read that it was difficult to follow the director’s thoughts during Fidelio. To help visitors interpret better what they will see on stage, we recommend reading the following articles:

Listen below to the podcast, spoken in Dutch, where dramaturge Jasmijn van Wijnen and head dramaturge Luc Joosten guide you through Beethoven’s Fidelio and Zholdak’s stage direction.

Good, evil, and a world behind mirrors

Beethoven’s only opera will be presented in a unique form. Ukrainian stage director Andriy Zholdak, a master of imagery and symbolism, tells the story of this rescue opera as an imaginary fight between good and evil forces, in every person, and in the universe. The central love couple Leonore (Fidelio) and Florestan must fight a battle with the devil-like Pizarro to restore harmony within themselves and the world. Zholdak makes numerous references to devils, such as snakes, fallen angels, and mirrors.

NPO Klassiek presenter Hein van Eekert gives introductions for Dutch National Opera prior to this performance. Van Eekert: “What I find interesting about this version is that the evil lies with the man this time. In the Christian tradition, it’s often the woman portrayed as prone to evil, but here it’s the man. The director shows this by dressing Florestan in black wings during his first appearance. Leonore, however, remains very consistent in the performance. She does not allow herself to be tempted by anything.”

Scène uit Fidelio
Jacquelyn Wagner (Leonore) and Eric Cutler (Florestan) | Photo: Monika Rittershaus

In the original story, Leonore, disguised as a man, rescues her imprisoned husband Florestan from the evil Pizarro. Van Eekert explains: “In Zholdak’s direction, Leonore is a scientist who researches the cosmos. She foresees how Evil will absorb the world like a black hole, though she doesn’t yet know the consequences.”

Leonore dreams that her beloved Florestan is being seduced by Evil, Pizarro, who takes him to the world behind the mirrors, a representation of hell. She attempts to rescue him. “She finds him, loses him, and finds him again. The story becomes a kind of Die Zauberflöte, full of trials for both lovers,” says Van Eekert.

In Zholdak’s version, Evil disrupts everything except the music. “In his world, language loses its power, but the music – by Ludwig van Beethoven – does not.” This music is performed with verve by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, led by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and world-class singers.