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Heartbeat Opera Announces Four-City Tour of FIDELIO


Leonore is now "Leah," a young Black woman, and her husband Florestan is "Stan," a Black Lives Matter activist who has been wrongfully incarcerated.

Heartbeat Opera Announces Four-City Tour of FIDELIO

Heartbeat Opera will mount a four-city tour of its powerful 2018 adaptation of Beethoven's masterpiece, FIDELIO, which Heartbeat artistic director Ethan Heard conceived for the era of Black Lives Matter. The tour begins at home in NY's Metropolitan Museum on February 10, 12, and 13, 2022.

Heartbeat was planning to take its FIDELIO on tour in 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Then the pandemic hit, affecting incarcerated people especially and forcing Heartbeat to postpone the tour. Then George Floyd was murdered, sparking a much-needed racial reckoning. Now, with humility and a renewed sense of purpose, Heartbeat brings the tour back.


In Heartbeat's FIDELIO, Leonore is now "Leah," a young Black woman, and her husband Florestan is "Stan," a Black Lives Matter activist who has been wrongfully incarcerated by a white supremacist prison warden. Leah dreams that she becomes "Lee," a female prison guard who attempts to rescue Stan from death in prison. Together with playwright Marcus Scott, Ethan Heard has made the dialogue fresh and American (with new updates since the 2018 version), eliminated two major roles, and altered the ending.

The opera's most famous moment is the Prisoners' Chorus in Act 1-"O welche Lust"-when the prisoners are allowed out into the open air for a brief time, and they sing a gorgeous ode to freedom, hope, and the human spirit. Heartbeat invited six prison choirs to learn a new version of this hymn, and Heard and Heartbeat co-music director Daniel Schlosberg traveled to the prisons to work with and record the singers. All six audio recordings will be layered and combined with video from choir rehearsals so that the audience hears the voices and sees the faces of more than 100 incarcerated people in Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas, singing together in harmony.

Schlosberg's new orchestration-for two French horns, two cellos, two pianos, and percussion-will channel the emotional core of the opera. The instruments reflect Leah's hope and struggle, from the deep expressivity of the cellos to the bold resolve of the horns. Bolstered by a battery of pianos and drums, the instrumentation pulls listeners through a vast yet intimate journey into Leah's psyche.

Heartbeat is thrilled to continue its work on this FIDELIO, updating the libretto once more for our current moment, deepening the company's commitment to anti-racism in all that they do, collaborating more with their prison choir partners, sharing the production, and sparking important conversations. This tour is Heartbeat's largest and most ambitious venture yet. They have the opportunity to reach thousands of new audience members, including hundreds of young people, in four cities across the country.


Roc // Derrell Acon
Stan // Curtis Bannister
Leah/Lee // Kelly Griffin
Marcy // Victoria Lawal
Pizarro // Corey McKern

And the voices of more than 100 incarcerated singers
and 70 volunteers from six prison choirs:

Oakdale Community Choir
Iowa Medical and Classification Center, Oakdale, IA
Mary Cohen, Conductor

Ubuntu Men's Chorus
London Correctional, London, OH
Catherine Roma, Conductor

Kuji Men's Chorus
Marion Correctional, Marion, OH
Catherine Roma, Conductor

Hope Thru Harmony Women's Choir
Dayton Correctional, Dayton, OH
Catherine Roma, Conductor

Voices of Hope
Minnesota Correctional Facility, Shakopee, MN
Amanda Weber, Conductor

East Hill Singers
a program of Arts in Prison
Lansing Correctional Facility, Lansing, KS
Kirk Carson, Conductor


Stage Direction // Ethan Heard
Music Direction // Daniel Schlosberg
Original Movement Direction // Emma Crane Jaster
Movement Direction & Fight Choreography // Nigel Semaj
Set Designer // Reid Thompson
Co-Costume Designer // Valérie Thérèse Bart
Co-Costume Designer // Kara Branch
Lighting Designer // Oliver Wason
Sound Designer // Kate Marvin
Translator & Suptertitles // Nicholas Betson
Production Manager // Rob Signom
Company Manager // David S. Harewood

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