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Saturday, 24 August 2013 00:00

Bumpy ride in space with Beethoven

by Gordon Parsons


Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

This production may well be Beethoven but not as we know him.

Purists might consider Opera de Lyon's treatment of the composer's hymn to freedom more akin to a psychedelic episode of Star Trek than one of the repertoire's major grand operas.

It is set on some future spaceship escaping from the breakdown of Earth's ecosystem into infinity through projected nebulae of dancing stellar patterns, and the characters segue through this story of marital faithfulness and devotion in the face of oppression.

The boos that met director Gary Hill at the curtain call were offset by an audience largely delighted by the inventiveness and at times sheer beauty of the full-screen images, complementing and occasionally detracting from the singing.

Apart from suffering from an indigestible load of technology and some pretentious projected information - "our space ship is a tiny bubble in a glass of God" - the production gathered strength after a shaky first half which suggested under-rehearsal.

Erica Sunnegardh's Leonora and Nikolai Schukoff as her persecuted and imprisoned husband sang splendidly but found it difficult to convey passionate mutual commitment in such an unpromising setting.

Under conductor Kazushi Ono, cast and orchestra, particularly the chorus, rose to Beethoven's magnificent climax although the playing was more akin to a sci-fi film soundtrack.

A bumpy journey.

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