> BEETHOVEN Fidelio Harnoncourt [KM]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1827)

Fidelio (highlights)
Opera in two acts
Florestan…Peter Seiffert (tenor)
Leonore…Charlotte Margiono (soprano)
Rocco…László Polgár (bass)
Marzelline…Barbara Bonney (soprano)
Jaquino…Deon van der Walt (tenor)
With Sergei Leiferkus, Reinaldo Macias, Robert Florianschütz and Boje Skovhus
Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded at Stefaniensaal,Graz. June 1994 Teldec Classics International GmbH
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 0927 413742 [76.33?]


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Upon receipt of the text of Bouilly’s drama Beethoven abandoned a partly completed work based on a libretto by Schikaneder of Magic Flute fame. Was this because of identification with one, or even two, of the characters, in much the same way that first novels often have more than a suggestion of the autobiographical? Here was the rejected marriage proposer (Beethoven to the widow of Count Deym – Jacquino to the gaoler’s daughter Marzelline); and, as has been suggested by many, the isolationism for Beethoven resulting from his deafness compared with Florestan’s below ground cell.

The accompanying notes remind us that Bouilly’s drama was based on a true story of the French Revolution. Politics dictated that the librettist set the story in Spain and an earlier century. The two page opera history notes are helpful. However, I have serious reservations about including in the synopsis, comments on arias and ensembles that do not appear in the highlights as presented on this CD.

The opera opens with emotion on the domestic scale and builds quickly to the grand scale. The overture is a strong statement of intent. Whilst there are moments of uneven tempi there are some interesting phrasings in this crisply delivered overture. It concludes somewhat frenetically rather than prophetically.

Barbara Bonney as Marzelline provides an early high point. Her aria O wär’ ich schon mit dir vereint thinking of the (crossed dressed Leonore now Fidelio) is delivered with beautiful clarity of notes and longing tones. Deon van der Walt is her rejected suitor Jacquino. He reins back his voice to present a clear toned gentle simple suitor.

Rocco, Marzelline’s father, sung by Lázló Polgár has a gloriously brown deep voice for the (spoken) recitative, some of which is included. His is the ‘gold’ or ‘money’ aria Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben. The glory of his spoken tone appears to fade slightly in the aria. It is not the most expressive rendering. He is not helped by occasional over enthusiastic orchestral accompaniment.

Such over enthusiasm occurs again in Sergei Leiferkus’s prison governor’s prematurely triumphal aria but not before we have been treated to a real edge to his timbre so appropriate to the governor’s vicious nature.

Charlotte Margiono sings Leonore. High notes held effortlessly; vocal leaps accomplished with pinpoint accuracy; perhaps just a little light on expression but tonal beauty compensating for that; this is an accomplished performance.

Peter Seiffert as Florestan is deprived of the opening doom and gloom of his aria. These highlights start later in the aria with hope; which dis-enables Seiffert from given the grand contrast of tone and expression. He conveys vocally the joy of release from his cell whilst matching well with Margiono in the finale. Indeed in the ensembles all the voices balance well. In the earlier ensembles each can be distinguished pleasurably. In the finale the chorus joins with the orchestra to provide some mighty sounds reminiscent of the Choral Symphony.

Robert McKechnie


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