Review: Premiere of David Lang’s “Prisoner of the State,” a contemporary response to Beethoven’s “Fidelio”

Posted on: June 10, 2019

“For 40 years the composer David Lang had toyed with writing his own version of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” writes Anthony Tommasini in Friday’s (6/7) New York Times. “It’s inspiring when a living composer, rather than being intimidated by the work of a past master, pays homage to it, even critiques it, by writing a contemporary version. That’s what Mr. Lang has done in ‘Prisoner of the State,’ a 65-minute opera commissioned by the New York Philharmonic (and five other international institutions), which had its premiere production, directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, on Thursday night at David Geffen Hall. An exciting performance was led by Jaap van Zweden. Though some elements in the score seem like miscalculations, ‘Prisoner’ is a dark, seething and engrossing work…. Mr. Lang streamlines the story and places it in an unspecified contemporary time. For this production, with Matt Saunders’s scenic designs, the walls of the stage were lined with barbed-wire fencing.… Even the Philharmonic players wore plain black clothing and knitted caps…. This ambitious work … is a high point of Mr. van Zweden’s first season as music director. Give him—and Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s visionary president—credit for thinking big.”

In photo: The New York Philharmonic’s production of David Lang’s “Prisoner of the State,” with, from left, Alan Oke, Jarrett Ott, Julie Mathevet, and Eric Owens, and the Men of the Concert Chorale of New York. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times.

Posted June 10, 2019