Roll Over Beethoven

Artist Jun Kaneko takes on Beethoven's 'Fidelio' for Opera Omaha

Jun Kaneko has an international reputation as a ceramic sculptor who is also known for his work in many other media, including acrylic paint, glass, ink, oil stick and, for the last decade, opera.

Local audiences who thrilled to his set and costume designs for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in 2006 and Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2013 will finally get a chance to see his creative turn on Fidelio, Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera.  Opera Omaha will stage performances as its season finale at the Orpheum on Friday, April 17 and Sunday, April 19.

Kaneko was commissioned to design sets and costumes by the Opera Company of Philadelphia for its 2008 production of Fidelio. It has since toured to San Francisco and Washington, D.C.; this will be the production’s premiere in Omaha.

Known as a “rescue opera” for its themes of captivity, separation, liberation and reunification, Fidelio touches on some especially resonant notes encompassing political imprisonment and the bonds of marriage—the hero in this story is the wife, Leonore, who goes undercover as a man (Fidelio) to engineer the release of her unjustly imprisoned husband, Floristan.

It was the metaphor of good and evil, light and dark—white and black—that Philadelphia’s producing director, Robert Driver, saw in the gridwork of Kaneko’s designs for Butterfly that brought the two together.

Familiars will recognize many Kaneko stylistic motifs: a certain minimalist sparseness, range of bright, selective color, bold clear geometric patterns, etc. His sensitivity to space and interval, which serves him well as a sculptor, extends to the additional theatrical necessities of lighting, movement, timing, musical and narrative flow. Kaneko also teamed again with Clark Creative Group for place- and mood-shaping motion graphics.

The result is destined to be a clever marriage of old and new, a fresh take on undying human themes and classical music.

Opera Omaha’s production of Fidelio will be performed at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th Street on April 17 at 7:30pm and on April 19 at 2:00pm. For tickets, visit or call 402/345-0606.

Category: Art, Literary

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