Then Don Pizarro (Pavlo Hunka), the villain, tripped over his ludicrous Mikado-like dress, showing the packed but discombobulated Edinburgh Festival Theatre audience his knickers. It was a moment
that summed up both the impossibility of this production, and the futility of it.
At the invitation of Opera Lyon, conceptual artist Gary Hill set this version of Beethoven's Fidelio within a 1950s Swedish novel about a spaceship heading into oblivion. By Hill's admission, this was a random decision, and this lack of integrity was palpable. We had to stomach dubious text floating about inside Beethoven's score, and we had endless geometric multimedia visuals drifting across the whole show. The singers whizzed about on Segways, unable to move properly in their futuristic but dated costumes, designed by Paulina Wallenberg-Olsson. Only the lighting design, by Marco Filibeck, was something special.
Hill wanted his production to be inhuman and characterless. No-one was allowed to touch. Leonora (Erika Sunnegardh) and Florestan (Nikolai Schukoff) sang of their warm embrace from opposite sides of the stage. The screen at the front onto which were projected his soon tedious, visuals, stayed between audience and singers for the duration. This had direct consequences for the balance, so singers struggled to be heard at times, apart from Schukoff, who rescued the second act with his presence.
Conductor Kazushi Ono should have done something about this balance, but he seemed to want to come to Beethoven's rescue and, with the commendable chorus, drown out the nonsense with something convincing.