One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month



From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience



CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Fidelio (The triumph of married love) - opera in two acts. Op.72 (1814)
Leonore/Fidelio, wife of a political prisoner – Melanie Diener (soprano); Florestan, her husband – Roberto Sacca (tenor); Rocco, gaoler – Alfred Muff (bass); Pizarro, Prison Governor - Lucio Gallo (baritone); Marzelline, Rocco’s daughter, in love with Fidelio – Sandra Trattnigg (soprano); Jaquino, assistant gaoler, in love with Marzelline - Christopher Strell (tenor); Don Fernando, Governor of the Province – Krezimir Strazanac (bass)
Zurich Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Bernard Haitink
Stage director: Katharina Thalbach; Set Designer: Ezio Toffolutti
rec. Zurich Opera House, 2008
OPUS ARTE DVD OA 1023 D [146.37]

Experience Classicsonline

Looking back on musical history it seems strange to us today that Beethoven, widely recognised as the pre-eminent composer of his time, only managed to write one opera. And that was after two unsatisfactory trials and much revision. As the son of a singer and grandson of a former Kapellmeister, Beethoven must have become familiar as a boy with theatrical repertoire. Aged twelve, his teacher Neefe employed him as his deputy in rehearsals of theatre music. In later years, in Bonn, he became familiar with a wide operatic repertoire, further extended by the variety of works that he heard in Vienna, after he had settled there in 1792.

In both Bonn and Vienna Beethoven contributed music for theatrical productions. Typically, he provided a score in Vienna for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus and wrote arias for use in operas by other composers. However it was not until 1803 that he started work on what was to be his only opera. Fidelio based on a French play Leonora, or Conjugal love of 1798. Other composers set the play as an opera. In that form it was a success in Paris and there was a German version by Paer in Dresden in 1804. The story is that of a typical rescue opera, owing much to an incident in the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.

The translator of the German version was given the job of director of the Theater-an-der-Wien, replacing the actor-manager Emanuel Schikaneder, author of the libretto of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. In accordance with terms agreed with Schikaneder, Beethoven occupied rooms at the theatre. These were at the very advantageous rate of free lodging during the composition and ten per cent of the box office proceeds from the first ten performances. The new lessee of the theatre renewed this arrangement. The first sketches of Leonore, his favourite title, date from 1803 and are contemporaneous with the Eroica symphony.

Beethoven worked assiduously and meticulously throughout 1804 and 1805 making many sketches including eighteen for Florestan’s first aria. To avoid confusion with Paer’s opera, Beethoven's was given under the title Fidelio. Blighted by poor casting and the invasion of Vienna by Napoleon shortly before the work was premiered in November 1805, it was greeted poorly by a sparse audience. Beethoven withdrew it after three performances.

Friends encouraged Beethoven to shorten the work with a revised libretto and two acts instead of three. This revision was performed at the end of March 1806, this time with the third of the Leonore overtures, now best known in concert performance. It was then withdrawn, apparently through Beethoven's dissatisfaction either with the performance or the financial results after two performances. When Beethoven published music from the opera himself, he used his preferred title of Leonore.

It was not until 1814, after further revision and changes in the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, an actor who had quickly risen in 1802 to the position of poet and stage-manager of the German Court Theatre, that Fidelio was again staged in Vienna. The Fidelio overture was not ready for the first performance on 23 May 1814 but was available for the second performance, three days later. It is in this final revision, with the new overture, that the opera Fidelio, as it is now known, was premiered. Leonore overture number three is often given as an introduction to the second act, or, as here, to divide act two.

In the opera, the name ‘Fidelio’ is assumed by the heroine, Leonore, who disguises herself as a boy. In that identity she takes employment under the gaoler Rocco in the prison where her husband Florestan is kept by his enemy, the prison governor Don Pizarro. She is able to rescue her husband from imminent death as trumpets announce the arrival of the King’s Governor. Leonore and her husband get their freedom whilst Don Pizarro gets his due, in this case a shot is heard off-stage after he has been lead away with a hood over his head.

Given the vitality of the symphonies that had flowed from Beethoven’s pen during the protracted period of the composition of Fidelio, particularly the vibrant Seventh in 1813, it is something of a disappointment that Bernard Haitink’s interpretation is so languid in his conducting of such a dramatic work. It lacks the bite, dynamism and tonal weight that I find in other versions on record, particularly that of Klemperer (EMI) and Halàsz (Naxos) let alone Bernstein’s account. Thinking of Carlos Kleiber’s brilliantly vibrant conducting of the Seventh Symphony on CD (DG), with its overtones of Fidelio, this is a particular cause for regret.

Whilst Ezio Toffolutti’s stage design is fairly traditional, with imaginative touches, the costumes are a mish-mash. They could be setting the work anytime between 1870 and 1930. Particularly incongruous is that for Don Pizzaro in white suit and trilby as he goes round whistling. Add his facial contortions as Pizarro expresses his hatreds and bile, complete with bulging eyes, he looks more like a spiv or pantomime villain than anything else. In this role Lucio Gallo lacks the ideal tonal weight and bite to make a truly fearsome Pizarro. Melanie Diener as Fidelio also lacks the substance for the Abscheulicher (Chs.11-12). She sings adequately if without much depth of characterisation. A tall woman, she acts convincingly, except learning how to walk like a man, and reveals herself as a woman to Pizarro by tearing open her tunic to reveal naked female breasts; soft porn reaches opera! When she does undo her hair, the traditional manner of Fidelio revealing she is Leonore, Florestan’s wife, her long hair has a more revealing impact (double entendre intended). As Florestan, whilst not exactly looking like a starving man near to death, Roberto Sacca has the virtue of not looking grossly overfed as too many interpreters do. The trouble is that for this dramatic role a bigger voice is ideally needed. His is a more lyrical interpretation realised with good tone and expression making Florestan’s dire situation, before his wife’s intervention, more believable (Ch.17). As Rocco, Alfred Muff lacks impact (Ch.6). His is a bland interpretation and he fails to convey Rocco’s abject fear of Pizarro as well as his vacillating nature. As the young lovers, Sandra Trattnigg as Marzelline is suitably light of tone (Ch.4) whilst Christoph Strehl is convincing as the insistent Jaquino. The director’s touch of having Marzelline looking bereft and alone at the front of the stage at the otherwise happy conclusion is appropriate and pointed. As the Provincial Governor Krezimir Strazanac looks far too young and his voice whilst promising is just that.

The accompanying booklet has a topical essay titled A Timeless Message in English, French and German.

Robert J Farr



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.