When Ludwig van Beethoven dipped his toe into the world of opera in the early 19th century, the composer may have had the concept of freedom on his mind.

There's a fantastic moment in "Fidelio" when prisoners emerge from a dungeon and begin to sing. Their voices — which on May 20 were provided by the New National Theater Chorus at a Tokyo performance — reverberate through the air as they proclaim: "Oh, what joy, in the open air freely to breathe again! Up here alone is life! The dungeon is a grave."

The show comes as the New National Theater, Tokyo (NNTT) commemorates its 20th anniversary and prepares to say goodbye to artistic director of opera Taijiro Iimori, who began planning this staging of Beethoven's only opera two years ago as a way to cap his four-year tenure.