David Lang’s 'prisoner of the state' begins its European tour in London

David Lang’s 'prisoner of the state' begins its European tour in London

On January 11, 2020 the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Barbican and a host of special guest singers will give the European premiere of prisoner of the state, a new opera by David Lang with direction by Elkhanah Pulitzer. 215 years after the first performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio, Lang’s latest stage work takes a fresh view of the opera’s story and reflects on its enduring power.

prisoner of the state tells the story of a woman who disguises herself as a prison guard to rescue her husband from unjust political imprisonment but reflects on them through a modern lens. Claron McFadden (The Assistant), Jared Ott (The Prisoner), Alan Oke (The Leader) and Davóne Tines (The Jailor) are joined by the BBC singers for what will be a impactful evening, conducted by Ilan Volkov. This, Lang's fourth opera, was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam's De Doelen, London’s Barbican Centre, Barcelona’s l’Auditori, Germany's Bochum Symphony Orchestra, Belgium's Concertgebouw Bruges and Sweden's Malmö Opera. See below for all upcoming premiere dates in the European tour:

Watch opening night highlights of David Lang's prisoner of the state by New York Philharmonic

Beethoven loved the idea of freedom, but Lang's prisoner of the state re-examines Fidelio and discovers that in the 21st century, the issues that it raises about gender and personal identity are more than a match for the ideals of the enlightenment. Lang’s ability to glimpse the emotional heart and soul of a story within his focused, distilled and highly absorbing music has won him a Pulitzer Prize. In this opera designed for performance with an orchestra on stage, both instrumentalists and audience bear witness to the story of a woman striving to rescue her partner from unjust imprisonment. Lang explains:

The most problematic observation about Fidelio is that at the end, after the prisoner is freed, I always want the townspeople to sing about freedom, or about tyranny, or about justice, and instead they sing about how great it is for a wife to save her husband. ‘All who have such a wife, join our song!’ And of course, only one of the prisoners has been freed. What happens to the rest of them? For the past forty years I have wanted to make my own version of Fidelio, so I could think more closely about it, and maybe answer some of these questions for myself.

January 11
European Premiere

BBC Symphony Orchestra & Singers 
Barbican Centre, London
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May 23
German Premiere

Bochum Symphoniker & Vlaams Radiokoor 
Muikforum Ruhr, Bochum
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May 27
Belgian Premiere

Bochum Symphoniker & Vlaams Radiokoor 
Concertgebouw Bruges
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May 30
Dutch Premiere

Bochum Symphoniker & Vlaams Radiokoor 
De Doelen, Rotterdam
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June 5
Swedish Premiere

Malmö Opera Orchestra & Malmö Opera Choir
Storan, Malmö 
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July 3
Spanish Premiere

Orquestra OBC
L'Auditori de Barcelona
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