“There is cross-dressing,” says Nick Olcott. “It’s a very interesting piece from that standpoint.” But gender-bending isn’t necessarily notable feature of Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, in which as woman impersonates a man to rescue her husband from political imprisonment. “In opera, women playing men is accepted and standard, and it’s a part of the art form. It never was considered unusual,” says Olcott, who directed the show for The InSeries, setting it in the 20th Century, in an unnamed South American dictatorship.
“It’s Beethoven, so the music is absolutely magnificent,” he says, adding, “but dramaturgically, it’s problematic.” Beethoven referred to the work as “his shipwreck” and “his problem child,” and his lack of experience in opera is apparent. The German classical giant revised the piece repeatedly during his lifetime.
“It’s very much a tale about love but with a happy ending,” says Olcott. “And it’s not a deeply political piece as it has been portrayed over the years.”
Still, Olcott calls the music “very powerful,” noting that “it is certainly fascinating to see Beethoven’s mind at work.”
Fidelio plays Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, June 26, at 4 p.m., at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $23 to $46. Call 202-399-7993 or visit atlasarts.org.
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