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Opera Carolina

FOR THE OPENING production of the 2015-16 season, Opera Carolina’s general director James Meena chose Beethoven’s Fidelio, given its premiere on October 17. The stage director, Tom Diamond, re-set the production in East Berlin in 1989, coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Snippets of famous speeches by JFK and Ronald Reagan (“ich bin ein Berliner” and “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”) were played during pauses in the music to drive the point home that the oppression depicted was that of the Communist government of East Germany. The names of characters were also changed—Florestan became Kurt Wismach and Pizarro, Walter Ulbricht, for example. Generally speaking, this updating worked well throughout most of the evening, but it was less than logical when the inspecting Minister, whose impending visit prompts “Ulbricht” to order the murder of “Wismach” apparently before the fall of the Wall, turns out to be Walter Momper, the Mayor of West Berlin.

Be that as it may, it was a strong performance. The music of Beethoven’s only opera was well served throughout. The Charlotte Symphony under conductor Meena provided clear support throughout, and the augmented Opera Carolina Chorus performed with sensitivity and élan. The soloists were well chosen. Maria Katzarava may have had difficulty appearing manly as Fidelio, but her singing left little to be desired. The voice was powerful enough for the big climaxes of this difficult role and she also handled the more lyric moments with considerable tenderness. Her performance was a joy to hear throughout.

Another outstanding performance was the Rocco of Andrew Funk. His singing was solid and clear throughout, matched by a warm and impressive stage presence. As Ulbricht (Pizarro) Kyle Pfortmiller ranted convincingly—not much nuance in his performance, but none is called for. Wismach (Florestan) was in the capable hands of Andrew Richards, who was believable as the victim of unjust oppression and sang with finesse and anguish.

The supporting roles were also in capable hands. Raquel Suarez Groen (Marzelline) was an attractive actress with a sweet though not very large, voice. As her would be intended Chris Gueffroy (Jaquino), Brian Arreola displayed a rich lyric tenor. Local favorite Dan Boye brought dignity to the role of the inspecting Minister.  —Luther Wade 

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