(2003 TV Movie)

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Good singing, but didn't always engage me dramatically
TheLittleSongbird29 March 2012
I love Fidelio and Beethoven's music, but while it was still good I was disappointed I admit with this. The singing is mostly good, with two or three exceptions, the music is magnificent, the orchestra and chorus are mostly good, the conducting has many fine moments but also some where it plods and it doesn't always convince dramatically. For me, that was the bottom line. My first disappointment was the omission of the Leonore 3 Overture, a wonderful overture that contrasts so well with the dark intensity of the operatic drama, and I felt disappointed that it wasn't included. It was also strange because Simon Rattle is a specialist in Mahler, a composer who made it an "unwritten" rule to include this Overture.

Rattle's conducting is lively enough and musical with nice grand pauses, but there are a few places that betray the fact(a bit) that he is not entirely suited to Beethoven, some of the danger and energy of the opera is missing. This is especially true of two particular places, the quartet Mir Ist So Wunderbar and prisoners' chorus O Welche Lust. Both are well sung and blended, but Mir Ist So Wunderbar has a tendency to plod and for me O Welche Lust is not as moving or as impassioned as I would've liked. The orchestra are mostly good, playing with a strong, powerful sound throughout. There are some sections though that don't blend with each other. The woodwind have a fruity sound but the string section are smooth-as-silk sometimes, perhaps too restrained an approach perhaps compared to how intense the opera's drama can get.

As I've said, the singing is good, sometimes great. However there are a couple of exceptions. One was Julianne Banse as Marzelline. I like Banse, I loved her Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and she has a great voice. However, Marzelline is a role of girlish naivety, a characteristic reminiscent of Gilda from Rigoletto. While she sings very nicely, I in general found Banse too matronly for such a role. My biggest reservation was Jon Villars' Florestan. He sounds strained at the top with a somewhat ugly-sounding vibrato above the stave. I liked the pianissimo singing, but I missed that masculine and poignant edge.

Everyone else though fares much better. Best of the cast is Thomas Quasthoff as Fernando. Is it really his stage debut? It didn't feel like it. It is such a dignified performance, with his voice oozing with nobility and his diction and how he interpreted it was suitably intelligent. Alan Held is great, his voice as the villain of the opera Pizarro is not as black-hearted-sounding as Sotin or Berry, but it is powerful and more than adequate with the menace. Rainer Trost is a charming and youthful Jacquino. The experience in Laszlo Polgar's singing really shows as jailer Rocco, it is sounds very beautiful and rich and you can feel the character's benevolence and loyalty. Rocco's money aria is one of the highlights both of the opera and here.

Which brings me to Angela Denoke's Leonore. She occasionally sounds squally in Abscheulicher!, but overall particularly in O Nameleuse Freude the performance is very intelligent, clearly sounding determined and at other points desperate.The singing in the ensembles fares very well, with the Act 2 trio Euch Werde Lohn In Besser'n Welten a revelation in how the voices effortlessly weaved together. The sound here is is mostly clear, if occasionally having that patched together feel. All in all, the singing is good but some other areas were mixed. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Sing without the Spiel
Gyran23 October 2008
It may have seemed a good idea to stage Beethoven's Fidelio without the tedious dialogue but this singspiel without the spiel is in danger of throwing the baby away with the bathwater. This is apparent early in Act I when it appears that Rocco and Fidelio are communicating telepathically. Rocco stares at Fidelio and Fidelio stares back then Rocco continues singing: "Well said my son…" I did not particularly mind this but I did miss the out of step soldiers' march. There are no soldiers in this production. And I did miss the prisoner's release. Instead of the moving sight of prisoners stepping blinking into the sunlight we just see the chorus singing with stocking masks over their heads.

I do not know how this performance was billed. It looks to me like a semi-staging. The whole thing is undramatic and anyone who did not know the story would be struggling to make sense of it. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic give a lively account of the score and Juliane Banse is a vivacious Marzelline. The distinguished bass-baritoneThomas Quasthoff, making his stage debut, is a striking Don Fernando. The rest of the cast just about pass muster, including the normally reliable Angela Denoke in the title role.
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