Review: Leonore is a triumph at Buxton Festival

Kirstin Sharpin as Leonore and David Danholt as Florestan in Beethoven's Leonore.
Kirstin Sharpin as Leonore and David Danholt as Florestan in Beethoven's Leonore.

This year’s Buxton Festival offers a rare opportunity to experience the opera Leonore from which Beethoven derived Fidelio.

The story is the same: Leonore takes the name of Fidelio, dresses as a man and gets work as a jailer in an attempt to save her unjustly imprisoned husband. Matters are complicated when the head jailer’s daughter falls in love with the new ‘man’ at the jail.

The original production was a failure, not because of any shortcoming in the opera, but because Napoleon invaded Vienna and all the opera-goers fled.

Less condensed than Fidelio, this opera contains wonderful music: soaring arias, duets and ensemble pieces interwoven with great beauty. The relationship between voices and orchestra is masterly. The singing in this production is of a uniformly high standard. Kirstin Sharpin is excellent as Leonore and the male chorus is thrilling. The set is impressive, flexible and just right.

The underlying themes of this opera can be seen in many ways. In this production imprisonment is paralleled with Beethoven’s isolation in his deafness. In the finale, the rescued hero morphs into Beethoven, who frantically writes music at the piano, leaving our heroine out on a bit of a limb!

Other events in this production fit the theme better: as when, singing in praise of uxorial love, the restraining solders turn into beautiful women in long dresses who pair off with the prisoners.

An interesting evening of wonderful music.

Leonore continues this evening (Tuesday, July 12), July 15, 19 and 22.