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Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Fidelio, Op. 72 (1814) (highlights)
Alan Titus (bar) - Don Pizarro
Inga Nielsen (sop) - Leonore
Edith Lienbacher (sop) - Marzelline
Gösta Winbergh (ten) - Florestan
Herwig Pecoraro (ten) - Jaquino
Péter Pálinkás (ten) - First Prisoner
Kurt Moll (bass) - Rocco
Wolfgang Glashof (bass) - Don Fernando
József Moldvay (bass) - Second Prisoner
Hungarian Radio Chorus/Kalman Strausz
Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia/Michael Halasz
rec. Phoenix Studios, Budapest Hungary, 7-10, 14-18 Nov 1998
from complete recording on Naxos 8.660070-71
NAXOS 8.557892 [71:06]

This is a real surprise and a very good introduction to the opera. Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera and was originally written in 1805 as Leonora; the revised opera was completed in 1814. Fidelio is wonderfully visual and I well recall being very moved by the Prisoners’ chorus as a teenager.

There are, of course, many famous recordings from Toscanini through Klemperer to Barenboim and Rattle today. For those to whom this opera is unfamiliar this performance of all the key parts is splendid. There are informative notes and access to the libretto over the internet. www.naxos.com

Michael Halasz has already given an excellent Zauberflöte and this Fidelio is even better. An emphatic overture is followed by the appearance of Leonore - Inga Nielsen - who disguises herself as Fidelio to rescue her lover Florestan from prison. Nielsen is first rate. The quartet "Mir ist so wunderbar" is wonderful and is developed from Mozart’s "soave il vento". I love Furtwängler’s and Klemperer’s versions. This one is in magnificent sound under sympathetic conducting. These five minutes are worth the price alone. This is very much a theatrical performance and never so dramatic as in Pizarro’s aria. Alan Titus (baritone) is admirable in that role and sounds splendidly conspiratorial. The emotion is clear in Leonore’s aria and the "Prisoner’s chorus" is also very well executed. There is very good singing throughout which is not always a feature of Naxos’s operas.

All the gems from the main recording - which I have not heard - are here and I should add that the complete Fidelio lasts only just over two hours. There are clear notes as to the history of the opera and a detailed synopsis giving access points; ideal for a new listener.

This is a splendid highlights package drawn from the complete recording of a fine performance. It should tempt listeners to try the full work and to see a performance.

David R Dunsmore

see also

Opera Explained: An introduction to Fidelio Ludwig van BEETHOVEN



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