In an early song, “Mir ist so wunderbar,” Wooley, Tatulescu, Walton and Goerke sang a joyful and expressive quartet, skillfully blending their voices for a rich ensemble sound. For his part, Ford sang the corrupt official Don Pizarro with delicious devilishness, deftly toeing the line between evil villain and outsized caricature. Throughout, the singers excelled in smaller pairings, most notably duets between Tatulescu and Goerke.
The ASO’s performance of “Fidelio” is part of Spano’s years-long series of concert presentations of opera. The orchestra is on stage, the chorus on risers and the singers read their parts from music stands, with limited acting between them. This version of “Fidelio” also cuts out most of the dialogue between songs, keeping the audience up to speed with projected narration, which moves the story along. The arrangement puts the focus on the music, letting the orchestra become a character on the opera stage. Playing boldly – sometimes with fire, in other spots with sweetness – the orchestra could nonetheless cover some of the smaller voices on stage. At the rear of the stage, on risers, the ASO Chorus sat silently for large portions of the opera, but true to form, their singing proved to be worth the wait. In Act 1, the men of the ASO Chorus, as prisoners, sang a lovely paean to fresh air and springtime. Act 2 incorporated the full ensemble for sublime passages of forceful – and very loud – singing.
Beethoven’s opera is relevant today both as entertainment and, sadly, as a commentary on current events. As Spano’s downbeat hit in Atlanta, the New York Philharmonic was unveiling a re-imagination of “Fidelio” by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang. His “prisoner of the state” takes songs and themes from Beethoven’s work and, judging from previews of the songs on YouTube, makes the political undertones more overt. While the ASO programmed “Fidelio” years ago as a satisfying ending to their Beethoven/Bernstein project, the happy coincidence of performing the opera during the world premiere of Lang’s work adds another layer of importance to this weekend’s Atlanta concerts.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Tonight. $22-$55. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.