Prize for Opera 2018


01 / 06

prisoner of the state

The Doelen Concert Hall

prisoner of the state


prisoner of the state is a new opera to be staged in concert hall or “open” stages" composed by the American Pullitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. Lang is also librettist. The opera is inspired by Beethoven’s masterpiece "Fidelio", an opera which Lang admires deeply. His life-long ambition to create this new work stems, in part, not just from the opera’s evident glories, but from its inherent dramaturgical weaknesses. “It contains some of his best music, and some of his noblest sentiments”, says Lang, “but we rarely see a convincing theatrical interpretation of this piece. The injustices portrayed in his opera are very much themes of our time. Like many artists I feel a duty to create works which speak to us, on many levels.” "prisoner of the state" is not a “re-creation” of Fidelio, but a completely new opera keeping respectful distance from the Beethoven but still built upon a chamber orchestra, a large male chorus, and four principals. The roles are based upon but do not bear the names of Beethoven's originals. In Lang’s opera we meet The Leader (tenor) The Jailer (bass), The Prisoner (baritone), and the Assistant (soprano).
These organisations will produce and present the piece with local partners:
Operadagen, Rotterdam
Lincoln Center, New York
BBC Symphony Orchestra, London
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra

Artistic Team

David Lang's new opera for "open" or non-theatrical spaces, "prisoner of the state", is a departure from conventional opera. The composer and executive producer have searched carefully for the right combination of expertise, skills and background in the hope of bringing together a young, and preferably international, team of makers with a track record of innovation in various (dominantly visual) disciplines. Each team must embody the capacity to collaborate, to think beyond the boundaries of their own discipline, but also contribute to the joint search for a "new language" in theatre-making, led by Lang and Pulitzer. The team brings skills from film, the art gallery, costume-as object as well as more traditional experiences in the opera and orchestral music.

David Lang

David Lang


Elkhana Pulitzer

Elkhanah Pulitzer

Stage director

Floriaan Ganzevoort

Floriaan Ganzevoort

Lighting designer

Maline Casta

Maline Casta

Costume designer

Adam Larsen

Adam Larsen

Video artist

Co-producing Partners

Concertgebouw Brugge Logo

Concert Gebouw Brugge


Bochumer Symphoniker Logo

Bochumer Symphoniker


Operadagen Rotterdam


LAuditori Barcelona Logo

L’Auditori, Barcelona


The Barbican Centre Logo

The Barbican Centre

United Kingdom

New York Philharmonic Orchestra Logo

New York Philharmonic Orchestra

United States


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