Brewer's Leonore is everything one might hope for. Her recent
disc of arias in English for the same label (CHAN3127 –
was exemplary, but here she gets a chance to flex her vocal
muscles in one of the most rewarding roles in the repertoire.
for every great Leonore there should be not one but two
great men. One of course is her on-stage husband, Florestan
(who has to wait until Act 2 for his entrance); the other
should be in the pit. David Parry has the task of not only
making the work cohere making it feel like a soul-shaking
experience. Richard Margison has to appear as the man with
core morals that put freedom of expression before all else,
and who suffers for them.
trajectory of the opera is, basically, from Germanic opera
buffa (the Marzelline/Jacquino exchanges of the first scene)
through to high drama and, eventually, light; literally
so in the case of some stagings I've seen! This is confirmed
by the Overture we have to Fidelio - as opposed to
Leonore - here nicely together with superb contributions
from the horns and clarinets. Parry emphasises the contrasts
between fast and slow to good effect. The recording has
good stereo spread without over-emphasising the layout.
Most importantly, there is a sniff of the opera house about
Evans is a light Marzellina, very neat in her delivery,
and her voice opens out to full mobility easily. Wedd as
Jacquino is not at the same high standard, but the two nevertheless
make a believable pairing. Real knocking at the door, too;
you hear that more often in the opera house than on recordings,
where it is deemed, one would imagine, to be distracting.
Parry is at his best in these earlier stages of the opera,
responding well to the lighter moods.
confirms her excellence in her solo aria, 'O war ich schon
mit dir vereint' (here, 'If only we could marry today').
She is light and young to reflect the character, of course.
Only at 'Die Hoffnung schön' ('That hope engulfs my heart
with fire') does she slightly underplay her hand.
one singer who matches Brewer is the veteran Robert Lloyd
as Rocco. His voice carries not only authority but wisdom
too. His money aria is absolutely superb.
is Pavlo Hunka, sounding evil without being completely black
of outlook ('Ha! welsch ein Augenblick'; Ah! this is ecstasy').
He certainly gets Leonore's indignation here. Brewer's 'Abscheulicher!
... Komm, Hoffnung' ('Vile Murderer ... Come, hope') reveals
a woman deeply affronted. Her vocal equipment is fully the
equal of Beethoven's huge demands and the large leaps are
negotiated with consummate ease. It is almost as if she
inspires the Philharmonia brass to top form, too. The final
horn notes are positively screamed out!
Margison (who has sung Florestan, we're told, at Vancouver)
has power and lyric stretch. Try his 'In des Lebens Frühlingstagen'
– 'In the spring of youthful promise'. His initial cry of
'God' is floated, no cri de coeur à la Vickers, rather
an internalised cry of anguish. Generally very good but
at levels of higher than forte he can be tiring to listen
it is Brewer who comes into her own in this act. Her 'Go
back!' ('Zurück!') after Pizarro's 'You Perish!' is the
embodiment of a cutting edge of sheer determination and
iron resolution. Similarly her 'Namenlöse Freude' ('O joy
beyond all understanding') is resplendent. A pity Parry
does not keep the tension flowing at this point ... as Klemperer
on HMV did.
way with the Act 1 Quartet ('Mir ist so wunderbar'; 'A wonder,
clear and pure') sits rather on the surface and points the
way for his handling of the second act, the close of which
is neat yet not all that uplifting. Yet the recording is
exemplary, with singers carefully and convincingly 'placed'
in the sound picture. Parry's handling of the later Prisoner's
Scene is far better. He elicits breathtaking pianissimi
from the Philharmonia and a real halo of strings as the
prisoners enter the light. As I wrote my listening notes,
I noted that the Second Prisoner was far better than the
first, not realising the Second is a doubled part here;
Purves, ironically the sadistic imprisoner! The close of
Act 1 positively glows.
fascinating set, then. Not a five-star product, despite
its luxury packaging, but definitely worth it for the unforgettable
Leonore of Christine Brewer. Otto Klemperer's Fidelios
(the famous HMV and the live Testament SBT1328) remain chained
to my shelves lest they stray too far, but this one has
earned a place near it, too.