David Lang: Prisoner of the State (2019) 70′ – National premiere. Co-commissioned with the New York Philharmonic, the De Doelen Concert Hall, the Barbican Centre, the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Brugge and Malmö Opera.
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra (OBC)
Orfeó Català men’s choir
Elkhanah Pulitzer, stage direction
Ludovic Morlot, musical direction
All works of art must be regarded in terms of their historical context, since this background framework offers important clues that were not apparent or could not be foreseen at the time of their creation. This was the experience of composer David Lang when he attended a performance of Fidelio, the only opera by L. V. Beethoven. In Prisoner of the State, Lang actively appropriates Fidelio, transposing it to his own post-revolutionary context in a new opera for concert halls where the orchestra becomes part of the staging. Taking certain gaps in Beethoven’s several times rewritten opera as his starting point, Lang’s libretto highlights its most dramatic aspects, together with the concepts of love and freedom and the fate of the political prisoners, who are moved into the spotlight. It is reinforced by allusions to philosophers like Rousseau or Bentham, relinquishing the romantic plot and directing the opera at contemporary spectators. It is a work that has been defined as a fascinating contemporary singspiel, with a positive reception on both sides of the Atlantic in a rare consensus with regard to new compositions. An exercise in musical hermeneutics, it unites three outlooks: Beethoven’s, Lang’s and that of the audience attending its national premiere in 2023.