Beethoven rewrote his only opera three times. Since then it has been defined as a work that invites revision, reinterpretation and artistic flexibility. Caitlin Vincent explores the history of Fidelio, and talks to Simone Young and First Nations writer Tyson Yunkaporta about the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s concert version, which uses new text to reflect contemporary Australian society.

Kelly Griffin and Derrell Acon in Heartbeat Opera’s Fidelio. Photo © Russ Rowland

Without question the opera Fidelio holds an important place in the Western canon. The only opera written by Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio is the creative pinnacle of the composer’s second period and reflects some of his best musical expression. 

As historian Paul Robinson wrote in his 1996 book about the opera, Fidelio is an “emotionally...