Editorial Board

London Editor:
(London UK)
Melanie Eskenazi

Regional Editor:
(UK regions and Worldwide)
Bill Kenny

Bill Kenny

Music Web Webmaster:

Len Mullenger


Classical Music Web Logs

Search Site With Google 

WWW MusicWeb

MusicWeb is a subscription-free site
Clicking  Google adverts on our pages helps us  keep it that way

Seen and Heard Opera Review

Beethoven,  Fidelio:  Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, cond. Antonio Pappano. 30.5.2007  (ME)



Karita Mattila is the most emotionally involving and vocally convincing Leonore I have heard in a long while, and her Florestan, the massive German tenor Endrik Wottrich is almost her vocal equal, despite the way in which the production seems to sideline his character. This is a ‘new to The Royal Opera House’ staging, imported from the Met, and whilst it contains many absurdities it also offers a mostly straightforward, sympathetic reading of Beethoven’s hymn to married love.

Mattila’s character actually manages to look like a fanciable teenage boy, and she plays his awkwardness and insecurity for all they’re worth: to me, her voice is perfect for the role, almost ‘cello-like in the great Act 1 quartet, achingly tender in ‘Komm, O Hoffnung’ and capable of startling volume when required: her phrasing is at once musical and individual, but always apt. Wottrich was making his house  debut, and he is definitely a singer I want to hear in Wagner – this is a potentially great voice, with plenty of heft as well as sweetness when required, and he gave a superb account of his aria. Sadly, the director seemed to have decreed that Florestan is a cipher who needs to be hidden behind foggy lighting and lost in a crowd.

Karita Mattila as Leonore

There were three other very strong performances -  Robert Lloyd’s noble, troubled Don Fernando, Eric Halfvarson’s reliable Rocco, and Robert Murray’s strongly characterized Jacquino. The Norwegian baritone Terje Stensvold could pass for Fischer-Dieskau at a distance, such is his powerful physical presence, but alas the resemblance ends there, since his singing is under-powered and his characterization rather sketchy. As for Ailish Tynan’s Marzelline, the Royal Opera House simply has no business in fielding a singer with such poor grasp of the language in which the work is being sung: perhaps we are meant to find an Irish accent endearing, but her mangling of the dialogue was just too much, though her actual singing was musical enough.

Endrik Wottrich as Florestan

I liked the grim, vast prison set and its contrast with the little home, and especially the deep, deep dungeon with its sense of utter separateness from the world, and although there was a lot of the ‘some-vague-South-American-dictatorship’ about proceedings in general, it wasn’t too intrusive. However, there is so much more to Fidelio than we saw here: why, for example, are the prisoners all dressed in pristine white jump suits? (Try new! Wonder! Florestan, with biological brighteners!) and why do they hardly appear to react at all to what’s going on around them? Why is so little made of the dialogue between Leonore and Rocco as they prepare to dig the grave? (‘der Mensch hat so eine stimme..Ja, sie drängt in die Teife des Herzens’ sounded more like ‘Nice hunky guy…yeah, great butt.’)  Why do the women of the chorus in the final scene (inexplicably got up like leftovers from the ENO’s recent ‘Gondoliers’) appear not to be remotely concerned about their freed beloveds?  Most of all, why are Leonore and Florestan thirty feet apart as they sing ‘O namenlose Freude’ so that ‘Mein Mann an meiner Brust’ actually caused some laughter?

Orchestrally, things got off to a muted start, with some disparity between stage and pit, but after the prisoners’ scene a more confident Pappano seemed to emerge, and there was some very fine ensemble in the second act. A mixed response, then, but since any Fidelio stands or falls on its ‘heroes,’ you won’t be too disappointed.


Melanie Eskenazi

Pictures © Catherine Ashmore 2007

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page

Seen and Heard
, one of the longest established live music review web sites on the Internet, publishes original reviews of recitals, concerts and opera performances from the UK and internationally. We update often, and sometimes daily, to bring you fast reviews, each of which offers a breadth of knowledge and attention to performance detail that is sometimes difficult for readers to find elsewhere.

Seen and Heard publishes interviews with musicians, musicologists and directors which feature both established artists and lesser known performers. We also feature articles on the classical music industry and we use other arts media to connect between music and culture in its widest terms.

Seen and Heard aims to present the best in new criticism from writers with a radical viewpoint and welcomes contributions from all nations. If you would like to find out more email Regional Editor Bill Kenny.


Search Site  with FreeFind


Any Review or Article

Contributors: Marc Bridle, Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling,  Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, John Leeman, Sue Loder,Jean Martin, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, Raymond Walker, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)

Site design: Bill Kenny 2004