The last time I was at the Jube (Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, concert hall by campus) was for City and Colour. Last night, I went there to see my very first opera, Beethoven’s Fidelio.
The story is about a woman who disguises herself as a man to successfully rescue her political-prisoner husband, somehow accidentally getting herself engaged to the jailer’s daughter along the way, but in a bigger picture it’s about love and hope vs. forces of tyranny.
The costumes and sets of this production were vaguely modern-ish, with the prison workers all wearing black cargo pants (I wondered whether the soprano heroine got to wear cargo pants for many roles). Near the end, when the evil prison-governor was denounced and arrested, the soldier who escorted him away was actually wearing a UN-blue beret.
I did not listen to enough of it ahead of time to recognise the tunes, except the overture, and I didn’t really feel like most of the songs were the kinds of melodies that would stick in my head. I was sitting in the front row, so I had to move my head a bit from the singers to see the surtitles. Also, there was a lot where three or four people were each singing a different line at the same time, and it wasn’t entirely obvious from the surtitles who was singing which line. (I think that the next generation of surtitles needs to have sort of cartoon speech bubbles.)
Anyway, at the end, after the arrest of the evil prison governor, the chorus of prisoners is freed and the chorus of their families wanders across the stage trying to find their family members, and they are all slowly reunited. Only … only I noticed right away that in the crowd of young and middle-aged women and maybe about four children, there was one man in a cap, making his way to the side of the stage near me, finding a prisoner who looked to be about the same age, then embracing fiercely. All the rest of them were clearly nuclear families – one woman, or one woman and an older child, to each prisoner, and there was this couple along with the rest of them. I burst into tears. My seatmate, whom I’d told it was my first opera, probably thought I was just happy about the happy ending or the beautiful music, and I didn’t disillusion her.
It cost about three times as much as going to see Joel Plaskett Emergency last week – only I took a taxi home from that show and used my bus pass to get home from this one, so that evened it out somewhat. The rest of the audience was mostly over 40 and mostly dressed up, but not entirely either. I could see doing that again — especially if there are more operas with admirable female characters.