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David Lang’s prisoner of the state

BBC Symphony Orchestra

A jailer and his assistant helping a prisoner in chains out of cell

Follow one woman’s personal struggle against political oppression in this dark, seething and engrossing new minimalist opera from the co-founder of pioneering new music collective Bang on a Can.

215 years after the first performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio, David Lang’s fresh view of the opera’s story – and reflection on its enduring power – receives its European premiere. Beethoven loved the idea of freedom, but Lang's prisoner of the state re-examines Fidelio and discovers that in the 21st century, the issues that it raises about gender and personal identity are more than a match for the ideals of the enlightenment.

Lang’s ability to glimpse the emotional heart and soul of a story within his focused, distilled and highly absorbing music has won him a Pulitzer Prize. In this opera designed for performance with an orchestra on stage, both instrumentalists and audience bear witness to the story of a woman striving to rescue her partner from unjust imprisonment. 

This performance will end at approximately 9.30pm, without an interval.

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‘A dark, seething and engrossing work‘
‘The whole [opera] is remarkably economical, its brief length and stripped-down dramaturgy letting it deliver its polemical charge with stunning impact. ‘
‘Lang's score and the staging by Elkhanah Pulitzer . . . [are] triumphs, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats‘

Cocktails, concrete and tonnes of charm

Pop into the Martini Bar for a pre-performance tipple, with Happy Hour from 5-6pm


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Discover music from across the Contemporary Classical spectrum – from Judith Weir and George Benjamin to Nils Frahm and Max Richter.

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Barbican Sessions: Roderick Williams and Andrew West


Filmed in an empty Milton Court Concert Hall, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Andrew West perform a beautiful rendition of 'An die Nachtigall' by Johanness Brahms.

Barbican Hall