Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven, October 2018


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Explore some of the sublime music from Beethoven's opera Fidelio with these Youtube selections from various productions.


Act 1 Quartet: Mir is so Wunderbar. Marzelline, Fidelio, Rocco, Jaquino

Four characters and their separate thoughts interweave in a beautiful, introspective ensemble known as the Canon Quartet.

After a long, meditative orchestral introduction, Marzelline begins to sing of her love for Fidelio. Fidelio (Leonore) then chimes in with the same melody, but sings of her anguish and of how frail hope seems against the great danger facing her. Marzelline's father Rocco looks forward to the young couple – Marzelline and Fidelio – having a happy life together. Jaquino sings of his heartbreak at losing Marzelline to Fidelio.

Jennifer Welch-Babidge is Marzelline, with Karita Mattila as Leonore, René Pape as Rocco, and Matthew Polenzani as Jaquino in this 2002 Metropolitan Opera production, conducted by James Levine, directed by Jügen Flimm.


Act 1 Prisoners' Chorus, O welche Lust

Fidelio and Marzelline persuade Rocco to let the prisoners out of their cells for a few moments of fresh air. The prisoners revel in the sunlight, but then caution one another to speak softly, as they are being watched and overheard.

The orchestral introduction, with its ascending strings and horns and a rising motif on the bassoon, is a beautiful evocation of the prisoners' ascension into the light.

O welche Lust in freier Luft
Den Athem einzuheben!

Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Only here, only here is life!
The dungeon is a grave.

Leonard Bernstein conducts the Chorus und Orchestra in this 1978 producton by the Wiener Staatsoper, directed by Otto Schenck, with Gundula Janowitz as Leonore.


Act 2 Aria, In des Lehens Frühlingstagen. Florestan

In his dungeon, Florestan agonizes over the darkness and silence in which he has been confined for speaking truth to power. After a recitative Gott! welch Dunkel hier! O grauenvolle Stille! (God! What darkness here! What frightening stillness), he begins the aria In des Lehens Frühlingstagen.

In des Lehens Frühlingstagen
Ist das Glück von mir gefloh'n.

In the springtime of my life
I was bereft of all my happiness
I boldly dared to speak the truth,
And these chains are my reward.

Then as the music picks up, he has a delirious vision of Leonore appearing to him like an angel. A marvelous oboe solo winds round his words of wild hope, verging on madness.

Und spür' ich nicht linde, sanft säuselnde Luft?
And do I not feel a gentle, soft, whispering breeze?
What brightness shines into my grave?
I see how an angel in a rosy haze
stands comfortingly by my side,
An angel Leonore! Leonore so like my wife,
who'll lead me to freedom in heaven's realm!

Jon Vickers is Florestan. 1974, further credits not provided.


Act 1 Prisoners' Chorus. Heartbeat Opera

Here is another version of the Prisoners' Chorus. In 2018, New York's Heartbeat Opera set their production of Fidelio in the US prison system, with Florestan as a Black Lives Matter activist. The recorded voices of more than 100 incarcerated singers and 70 volunteers from six prison choirs were used in the Prisoners' Chorus.

This reorchestrated and reduced production is far from a traditional musical presentation of the opera. But it brings an immediacy to the drama that is surely at the heart of what Fidelio can express.

Directed and adapted by Ethan Heard. Arranged and music directed by Daniel Schlosberg. New English dialogue co-written by Marcus Scott and Ethan Heard. Supertitles translation by Nick Betson. Featuring Kelly Griffin as Lee and Malorie Casimir as Marcy.


David Timson: Opera Explained

Here is the first of a series of nine discussions of Fidelio and its music by David Timson. These are audio only, but provide a fascinating opportunity to explore the opera in considerable detail. Provided to YouTube by NAXOS of America.

To explore the other videos in the series, simply go to Youtube and search on Timson Fidelio




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Performances take place at the Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton Street, Victoria.