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Reviews of Fidelio, Longborough Festival Opera 2017


A challenging, provocative and highly rewarding evening. The young but already award-winning team of director Orpha Phelan and designer Madeleine Boyd have brought Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio into the present – and way into the future... Phelan and Boyd maintain, clearly with some justice, that you cannot portray prisons today without drugs, and also that prisons today are not dark but light, too light, blindingly light with prisoners under constant surveillance. Thus, the famous overture is played while on stage drug manufacture is taking place. The drugs keep the prisoners in a state of passivity, and a massive metal contraption to process the drugs dominates a set that pays homage to the director and designer's love of movies. Mad Max, Alien, Prometheus – the pair cite all three in their interview in the programme. This is a production that stays with you and makes you think not just about the opera’s key themes – about totalitarianism and corruption – but about the future of prisons. This is a director-designer duo whose careers will be fascinating to follow.

David Lister, The Independent 2017

Longborough Festival Opera has taken a rather brave step forward with this plucky and lively staging of Fidelio...filled with light and hope.  The concept proves really quite gripping... a plausibly androgynous Leonore wheedles her way into the favours of Pizarro’s henchman Rocco in order to get access to the notorious B Wing where Florestan is incarcerated... Phelan draws persuasive performances from the cast... more of Beethoven’s intention to tell a thrilling knife-edge story comes across than usual. 

Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph 2017

Orpha Phelan and Madeleine Boyd's visionary production...Beethoven was much exercised by current ideas of liberty and justice when he wrote his only opera, so it seems fair enough that director and designer have raised their own questions about freedom and controls by setting the piece in a timeless past-future, in which prisoners are held captive by coma-inducing drugs, produced in a laboratory of H G Wellsian steam technology.

Colin Davison, British Theatre Guide 2017


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