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Fidelio: Scenes From Beethoven's Opera

3-star rating
Free, Music
Comfortable, Stationary

Fidelio: Scenes From Beethoven's Opera

Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, tells the story of a woman who seeks to rescue her husband from death in a political prison. Performed by the Washington National Opera, this virtual reality experience includes two costumed and set-dressed scenes recorded in 360° video featuring the talents of singers Tamara Wilson and Russell Thomas.

One scene from each of the two acts is included in the production, with each piece running around eight minutes in length. Rather than being filmed on stage, the two performances are set in small rooms and captured by a fixed single 360° monoscopic camera. We're more accustomed to opera performances in vast concert halls, so it seems unusual to have such large voices in such small sets, and this is compounded by a mismatch of the accompanying soundtrack that was clearly recorded in a much bigger space. Further affecting the experience is the lack of dynamism to the pictures, which appear to be due to a lack of color grading and leveling of the recorded image.

Tamara Wilson standing in a drab office room.
Tamara Wilson performing "Komm, Hoffnung" (Come, Hope)

Fidelio's user interface is well-implemented, and the menu includes some helpful introduction to the work of the artist and performers. Blocking of the performers is well positioned, too - the viewer's gaze can comfortably follow the singers' actions without the need to rotate from a seated position.

Overall we found Fidelio to be lackluster in terms of presentation and performance, and few of the benefits offered by virtual reality are utilized employed here. The mono video doesn't provide depth to images and the app's vaunted 360° audio wasn't noticeable to our ears. We would likely have enjoyed the viewing more as a traditional flatscreen viewing with better cameras and better post-production techniques.

A bloodied Russell Thomas clutching his wrist in a dirty prison cell.
Russell Thomas acts and sings a piece from Act 2.

✅ Pleasant to see opera represented in VR.
❌ Drab sets, unpolished video.
❌ Benefits of VR not showcased by this production.

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• Languages: English
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