General Director Richard Mantle assesses the Question of Liberty
In all three of our operas this season – Beethoven’s Fidelio, Janácek’s From the House of the Dead and Bizet’s Carmen – the question of liberty, either personal or in the wider social or political sphere, is at stake. Opera is rightly prized for its capacity to stir the emotions, but this season demonstrates that it can engage just as passionately with ideas. Precisely because of the emotional power of music, opera is perfectly placed to convey the personal experiences of individuals caught up in larger social or political events. Writing of the first London performances of Fidelio, Thomas Love Peacock spoke of ‘a force and reality that makes music an intelligible language, possessing an illimitable power of pouring forth thought in sound.’
‘Thought in sound’ – that’s a useful phrase to keep in mind this season. I write these words at a time when international headlines are full of the events in Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the Ivory Coast, whilst at home the debates are about – amongst other things – the legitimacy and efficacy of public demonstration in the wake of the protests against public spending cuts, and the way we run our prisons, to name but two. All this serves to point up the universality of the liberty theme. So as well as exploring it through our main stage productions, we also examine its immediate contemporary resonances in what I am certain will be an enormously stimulating series of talks, performances and film screenings in the Howard Assembly Room inLeeds.