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Get a little operatic and go take in some Beethoven

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.

Florestan, played by Simon O'Neill, is left to rot as a political prisoner in the HGO production of "Fidelio." "Fidelio" is the only opera Beethoven composed.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: "Fidelio"

WHERE: The Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave, Houston.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Sunday

COST: $38 to $342

WHAT: "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs"

WHEN: Through April 15

WHERE: The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Caroline Weiss Building, 1001 Bissonet St., Houston

COST: $33 for adults; $18 for children 6-18; $29 with student ID

WHAT: "Life and Luxury in 18th Century Paris"

WHEN: Through Dec. 11

WHERE: The Beck Building, The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 5601 Main St., Houston

COST: $7

WHAT: Spring Awakening

WHEN: Through Nov. 13

WHERE: Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, Austin

Beethoven wrote a lot of music that we all love, but while most people can hum a few bars of the Symphony No. 9 and manage to at least recognize Symphony No. 7, his only opera is often overlooked.

Now, you've got a chance to settle into one of the plush, red velvet seats at the Wortham Center and take a closer look and listen to the work via the Houston Grand Opera's production.

"Fidelio" is the story of a woman trying to free the man she loves from prison. Leonore's husband has been wrongfully imprisoned - and is possibly dead - but the determined wife sets off into the labyrinth of the prison system to find and free him.

Based on a true story, the opera took Beethoven 11 years to write. The opera is filled with characters tackling angst, uncertainty, loyalty and heroism, while singing the composer's technically challenging score (he has never been known for being the guy who goes easy on his singers).

The story deals with themes of the struggle for liberty and justice, reflecting the political turmoil that was roiling much of Europe at the time. In today's political climate, the story still rings true.

Beethoven struggled to compose this opera, and didn't much enjoy the task since, once it was finally finished, the famed German composer never wrote another one. But despite that, the work is Beethoven at his best, composing an achingly beautiful score to propel this story of love and loyalty forward.

I admit, I love his symphonies better, but his opera is worth the price of a ticket to see live. Besides, the Houston Grand Opera is one of the premiere opera companies in the country, and the chance to see some of the greatest singers around doing what they do best in a company that is always willing to take risks and put on interesting performances is one you should not pass up.

All I'm saying is, if you've never come across the wonder that is Beethoven's opera "Fidelio," you've got the chance to check it out.

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