One Minute World Arts- Performing Beethoven’s Fidelio in Sign Language

Performing Beethoven’s Fidelio in Sign Language

Fidelio is the only opera that the greatly admired musician and composer Beethoven has left to the world. It depicts a story about Leonore, a devoted wife, trying to rescue her beloved husband Florestan from the prison by disguising herself as a guard named Fidelio. Florestan is a political prisoner framed by the villainous governor of the prison, Pizarro, who wants to see him dead. However, Leonore (Fidelio) manages to drag her husband out of danger when he is about to be stabbed by Pizarro, and the two of them eventually get to be reunited. The opera is widely regarded as a masterpiece about love, freedom, and hope.

This precious opera was composed by Beethoven at a time when he was experiencing hearing loss, and this became the major reason why Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, made the decision to work with Deaf West Theater, a theater company created in LA by deaf actors, for a “double-cast” production of Fidelio, in which each character is portrayed by both a singer and an actor, with the singer singing and the actor performing in sign language. The production team had to conquer a lot of difficulties, including translating German into American Sign Language and making the deaf or hard-of hearing actors feel the rhythms, in order to conceive a Fidelio for both hearing and deaf audiences. But the experience has proved to be as powerful for the opera singers as for the actors, and very likely the most inclusive one ever witnessed.

Beethoven’s Fidelio with Dudamel and Deaf West Theater was presented at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on April 14-16, 2022.




貝多芬譜寫這齣歌劇時,正面臨著自身聽覺逐漸流損的重大挑戰。此一音樂史上令人動容的事蹟,成了洛杉磯愛樂樂團音樂總監杜達美(Gustavo Dudamel)決定邀請在地聾人劇團Deaf West Theater,攜手製作新版《費德里奧》的靈感。這版《費德里奧》以別出心裁的「雙卡司」為主要訴求,劇中的每個角色都由一名歌手和一名演員同時扮演:歌手負責演唱的部分,演員則以手語和肢體詮釋對白及動作。為了達到此一目的,製作團隊必須克服重重障礙,例如將德文「翻譯」成美式手語,以及協助失聰或有聽覺障礙的演員感受、熟悉音樂節奏等等,好讓一般觀眾和聾人觀眾都能進場欣賞這部貝多芬的傑作。整個製演過程不僅讓劇團的演員備受衝擊,而且對歌唱家們來說,也是意義深遠;畢竟,這樣的合作模式,應該是歌劇史上最具包容、融合精神的一次展現。



Photo Credit: Michael Tyrone DelaneyLA Phil