LA Phil and Deaf West Theater Bring Beethoven’s Fidelio To Deaf & Hearing Audiences This Week

This Thursday and Friday, Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic will be collaborating with Deaf West Theater and Venezuela’s Coro de Manos Blancas (White Hands Choir) on a semi-staged production of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. This production, which premiered to raves in 2022, incorporates deaf actors using American sign language alongside hearing singers performing the score.

This particular work – telling the tale of a noblewoman who goes undercover to break her husband out of prison – was completed and had its premiere as Beethoven was becoming deaf himself. He never wrote another opera, but this one hits all the big themes familiar in his work. I’m excited to see what the company will do visually with the stirring Prisoner’s Anthem, an ode to freedom and humanity from the heart of a political prison.

Ever since its 1805 premiere, there have been events that neatly tied the themes of this work to the immediate present (its storied performance in Berlin in September of 1945 must have been a bit goddamn poignant), and we find ourselves in one of these today. It would be easy to think Beethoven foresaw the present moment when he wrote it, as I expect we’re going to feel it. But the moment had happened before it was written, and it will happen again. Deep, instinctive appeals to our deeper conscience never seem to go out of style.

Fidelio will be performed by the LA Philharmonic and Deaf West Theatre at Disney Hall on May 16 and 17. Use the promo code FIDELIO40 for a 40% discount on certain sections. Tickets, $94 to $259, available here.

Photo courtesy of Deaf West Theater, used with permission.

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