Libretto #2 (2022)
Seven questions for ... Ingela Brimberg
In FIDELIO soprano Ingela Brimberg interprets a heroine who is one of a kind in the world of opera: self-determining, courageous, free
Is this strong and radiant victrix type the best role to be singing in this opera?
A lot of female characters in opera are just as strong and plucky, but they are thwarted by circumstances. That’s what would happen to Leonore, too, if she didn’t dress up as a man. On the one hand she’s doing it as a nod to social convention, on the other hand as a challenge to gender norms.
In the end Leonore triggers a minor revolution. To what extent does the political sphere overlap with the private?
Leonore is not interested in changing the world; she just wants her husband back. She only starts to develop as a character when she encounters injustice on a larger scale.
FIDELIO is a musical rollercoaster. Is the chopping and changing hard for you as a singer?
I see the twists and turns as perfectly logical – up until the love duet. I mean, you’ve got a political prisoner languishing and starving in a dungeon for two years and suddenly: the big release! There’s something surreal about that if you ask me.
Leonore gets her wrongly imprisoned husband released from prison, risking her life in the process and hurting the feelings of others. What price does she pay for her husband’s liberty?
Disguised as Fidelio, Leonore sees that Marcelline, the jailer’s daughter, is in love with her, but what else can she do? Leonore is past the point of no return: if she goes soft, she risks being unmasked, so she keeps Marcelline in the dark, because to do otherwise would jeopardise her plan.
Unavoidable collateral damage?
I wouldn’t go so far as calling it ‘collateral damage’. We’re talking about a young woman who’s currently in a hapless, forced marriage to Jaquino and who meets another type of guy who seems to tick all her boxes. Maybe she’s attracted to Fidelio’s androgyny. It’s amazing how we still assume women to be the victims, because I think here we have a case of Marcelline and Jaquino both labouring under bad communication. There’s another way of reading Marcelline’s love for the androgynous Fidelio, too - from the historical perspective: we can see it as an attempt to make fun of a man painting himself as more sensitive and feminine than was the norm back then. And as an ironic comment on a “traditional” man who then gets uptight over women finding this very softness attractive.
FIDELIO starts off upbeat, turns into a political, prison-based nail-biter and closes with a vision of salvation. Are you following any game plan to present these emotional swerves as credible?
On the emotional level I can begin by taking my lead from the drama present in the music. Leonore evolves as the story progresses, gaining access to the prison, winning the confidence of the jailer. Everything’s going according to plan but her situation is getting more and more dangerous.
Until suddenly everything is wound up perfectly. Love and liberty have prevailed. How are you presenting this about-face on stage?
The music is a help, because it erupts in the same abrupt way. Up to that point my voice has been kind of middle-of-the-road lyric/dramatic soprano. The tessitura, in this case the pitch range of the love duet, is suddenly much higher than what I’ve been singing up till then. It yanks me into a new realm, as both singer and actor. It’s like I’m no longer connected in a linear way to what went before. Strange, but in a good way.