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Watch the unfaithful 'Fidelio' that drove conductor Carl St.Clair out of Berlin

June 3, 2010 |  2:45 pm

Here's a glimpse of the production of Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" that Carl St.Clair says was the deal-breaker that led to his resignation last month as general music director of the Komische Oper Berlin, less than two years into his six-year contract.

The company's aesthetic, called Regietheater or director’s opera, puts directors firmly in the driver's seat -- and St.Clair said in a recent interview that he felt he'd failed in his duty to the composer by, among other things, allowing director Benedikt von Peter to prevail in omitting the "Fidelio" overture and substituting a non-musical opening in which a theater was seen being dismantled and thrown into the big Dumpster that critics, many of them unimpressed, noted was the production's dominant set-piece.

In a statement announcing the split, the opera company's director, Andreas Homoki, said, “I still think highly of Carl St.Clair. He is an extraordinary and very interesting musician and I am very sorry that we have not been able to work together.”

(In the German interview portions of the video above, Von Peter explains the premise of "Fidelio," dramaturge Werner Hintze describes the differences between Beethoven’s 1805 and 1814 versions and St.Clair says that even when the music is quiet, the meaning of the opera is “so deep, that one can barely sing at all, because it is so impressive.”)

It wasn't all bad: St.Clair says that he enjoyed working with director Hans Neuenfels on what he calls "a very poignant and crystalline staging" of Aribert Reimann's 1978 Shakespearean opera, "Lear," which he's scheduled to conduct on July 14.

St.Clair expects that after July, when he concludes at the Komische Oper, he'll have more freedom to get back on the guest-conducting circuit. He also continues as music director of the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, where his 20th season as music director concludes with performances tonight through Saturday (with guest violinist Leila Josefowicz) and June 10-12 (with guest pianist Andre Watts).

Click here for more on St.Clair's two decades with the Pacific, and here for reflections on his days as a protege of Leonard Bernstein.

-- Mike Boehm (with German translation by Scott Sandell)


St.Clair celebrates two decades with Pacific Symphony

Conductor Carl St.Clair celebrates 20 years home on the range with Pacific Symphony