Beethoven’s Opera That Celebrates Love And Freedom

There are particular operatic scenes that by no means fail to tingle the scalp. Tosca stabbing her lecherous blackmailer to demise, or Carmen keeping off her murderous ex, for instance. However the second when Fidelio reveals himself to be a lady, heroically saves her husband, after which pulls a pistol on her evil nemesis, is a firecracker to beat all of them. Fidelio was first premiered on November 20, 1805. To mark its anniversary, let’s check out what makes Beethoven’s solely opera such a scorching property.

Listen to our recommended recording of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, featuring Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, now.

A heroic woman-man? Within the early nineteenth century? Appears fairly trans-radical. What’s the plot?

Leonore, disguised as a younger man referred to as Fidelio, is working in a Spanish jail the place she suspects that her husband Florestan is being held as a political prisoner. Finally, she discovers him in a dungeon. When the evil governor Don Pizarro orders him to be murdered, she reveals herself as Florestan’s spouse, flings herself in entrance of him as a human protect, and pulls out a gun. A minister of the king arrives within the nick of time to denounce Pizarro and restore justice. The climactic pistol/revelation scene is an actual wowser.

It’s acquired chic music. It’s about liberty, justice, and freedom. It’s acquired a villain, it’s acquired heroism, it’s acquired a dungeon… what’s to not like?

Maintain on. Earlier on you mentioned ‘first premiered’. Isn’t {that a} tautology?

Mwaaahaha! You fell into my entice. There are three variations of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. The primary, in 1805, was thought-about a bit too lengthy and dramatically wobbly. The second was a hasty scissor-job staged just a few months later in 1806. The third, from 1814, presents an entire overhaul of the work, and that is the highly effective model often carried out in the present day.

To keep away from confusion – nicely, a few of it anyway – the primary two variations often now go by the title Leonore.

Who wrote the libretto?

An entire clutch of individuals, none of whom are very well-known. It was based mostly on a French work by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly, Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal (Léonore, or Conjugal Love), which was considered one of a heap of ‘rescue operas’ which turned common within the aftermath of the French revolution. A minimum of three different composers set the work (each in French and Italian) earlier than Beethoven, however his is the one one nonetheless within the repertoire.

Revolution, tyranny, political prisoners… Sounds a bit heavy for me.

There may be additionally a rom-com sort subplot, however it’s not fairly on the identical degree as the remainder of the work, so I used to be quite hoping you wouldn’t make me deliver it up. A younger lady referred to as Marzelline falls in love with Fidelio, making the lovelorn prison-warder Jacquino jealous. They squabble and kvetch rather a lot at first of the opera. However Beethoven appears to overlook about poor Marzelline in Act 2. She learns that Fidelio is a lady solely on the very finish, and her plotline is wrapped up earlier than you’ll be able to blink. She’s what you would possibly name a disposable character.

You could possibly say that having any type of knockabout comedy in a piece about transcendental beliefs of liberty is a mistake. However oddly, the one truly heightens the opposite.

Every other issues?

Properly, now you come to say it, there are a few issues. It’s onerous to consider that Florestan doesn’t acknowledge his spouse till the ‘massive reveal’, even when she is dressed as a boy. And the opera is definitely a sort of Singspiel, which signifies that there’s spoken dialogue between the numbers. On the entire, opera singers hate switching forwards and backwards between speech and track, and it might really feel a bit onerous for non-German audiences to adapt to. But when you may get over that, the delights greater than make up for it.

Equivalent to?

The ‘Prisoners’ Refrain’ from Act 1 is an unforgettable spotlight. Fidelio/Leonore persuades the chief jailer Rocco to let the prisoners out to really feel contemporary air and daylight, in order that she will seek for her husband. Their refrain ‘O Welche Lust’ (‘O, What Pleasure’) is an expression of musical ecstasy, all of the stronger for the environment of constraint.

When Leonore overhears Don Pizarro’s plot to homicide her husband, she sings one of many best soprano arias of terror and hope within the repertoire. It begins with declamation ‘Abscheulicher!’ (Monster!), and strikes right into a melody stuffed with longing, to the phrases ‘Komm, Hoffnung’ (‘Come, Hope’).

One other nice emotional outpouring comes at first of Act 2, when the motion strikes from the jail courtyard to the dungeon. After a brooding introduction, we lastly meet Florestan in his chains: he sings ‘Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!’ (‘God! How darkish it’s right here!’). He goals of his spouse coming to avoid wasting him.

Right here’s Jonas Kaufmann, our present best Florestan, singing this virtually impossibly troublesome aria.

And eventually, when Leonore frees her husband, and the refrain then joins within the festivities to shut the work, the opera turns right into a celebration of affection and liberty.

Really useful Recording

“An distinctive Florestan – arguably the best since Jon Vickers’s – from Jonas Kaufmann splendidly conveys his ethical greatness in addition to the extremity of his struggling.” – Tim Ashley, The Guardian

Our recommended recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio, featuring Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, can be bought here.

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