Beethoven – Fidelio – Birmingham Opera Company (2002) – Streaming on Operavision until 2/24
This is a very unusual staging; one of Graham Vick’s immersive performances where the audience is part of the action. At the start of Act 2, for example, the audience is anonymized with a number, and they have to stand on their spot with a hood over their head to hear Florestan’s aria in darkness. (I may have simulated this at home with a blanket.) There’s a lot of extra stage business which you may find distracting, but at its heart the story is all there, and so are Beethoven’s humanistic themes, in an unusually vibrant and visceral way. The orchestra sounds really raw and fiery, too. ****

Weber – Der Freischutz – Bayerische Staatsoper – Streaming on until 3/15
Dmitri Tcherniakov productions of non-Russian operas are sometimes intellectually stimulating but a little dry or confusing, but THIS DER FREISCHUTZ!!! It's a non-traditional telling; he has stripped it of the supernatural and all traces of German Romanticism. Now, it’s a psychological thriller about corporate bootlicking and soul-crushing power games. From atop a high-rise office building, Max wants to prove himself to Agathe’s father and his ring of elite friends. The shooting contest is to use a sniper rifle to shoot a random innocent on the streets below. This gruesome game isn’t real, but Max doesn’t know that, and the wealthy have all come to bet on whether he’ll pull the trigger. Later on, Tcherniakov also manages to make the Wolf’s Glen scene legitimately creepy and terrifying, dispensing with the typical Disneyfied “pagan ritual”. As usual, the entire Staatsoper cast is close to perfect, but Kyle Ketelsen as Kaspar is truly awesome. I’m glad this wasn’t my first Der Freischutz – it’s not an ideal first version of the opera – but it’s a revelatory staging. *****