Prokofiev's disturbingly enigmatic opera, The Fiery Angel, was never performed in his lifetime - considered too decadent by Stalin and his successors - but David Freeman's imaginative production asserts it as one of composer's greatest masterpieces. Ostensibly, it is a tale of religious hysteria and demonic possession, but the novel, by the Russian decadent Valery Bryusov, from which the opera is derived, also explores symbolically the love triangle endured by the writer himself, inspired by the self-destructive figure of his lover, the poet Nina Petrovskaya.
David Freeman has completely entered into this opera's strangely unnerving world. Evil is all around us and in his sensational production the image is taken quite literally. A troupe of male acrobatic dancers, representing the demons of Renata's mind, remain on stage throughout the opera. A sinister presence, they surge into silent animation at the faintest hint of obsessive passion or frenzy from the characters, and in the scene of the convent exorcism, they scuttle through the lines of nuns, taunting and provoking them and dragging off their habits in a choreographed riot.