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--Standard Repertory--

By Ludwig van Beethoven

VIDEO: A) (1979) 130 min., Color -- Sung in German with English subtitles. Elisabeth Söderström portrays the courageous Leonore in Peter Hall's stirring production. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne Chorus conducted by Bernard Haitink. An outstanding performance! [preceding blurb in German Language Video Center catalog] VAI 69006 Available as Order #VA 8 $59.95 in German Language Video Center catalog; Uneven cast, really, not all that sterling; but Söderström's Leonore is riveting and worth the whole show.[G.R.]

B-1) (1963) Christa Ludwig, James King, Arthur Rother conducting. B & W -- Sung in German with Japanese subtitles; only available on L-disk, which is being discontinued; on paper, looks like the finest of them all; have only viewed excerpts -- including an indelible "Abscheulicher" from Christa Ludwig, transfiguring; let's hope this will be reissued in another format. [G.R.]

B-2) (1977) Gundula Janowitz, Jon Vickers, Zubin Mehta conducting; color -- Sung in German with Japanese subtitles; some murky visuals and sonics, and Janowitz's Leonore not the equal of Söderström or Ludwig, but otherwise this performance features a slightly more assured cast than A), is more easily available than B-1), and boasts the finest Florestan on Video or Audio, Jon Vickers [G.R]

AUDIO: A) EMI: Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers, Klemperer conducting; Philharmonia CDCB 55170 Possibly, one of the finest complete opera recordings--of anything--ever made in the studio, as much for Klemperer's deeply felt conducting as for the superb singing from everyone here; an easy choice for top pick; but this Beethoven masterpiece has yielded magic under many a distinguished baton, and no single performance could hope to encompass everything that's here; to appreciate the wonder of Beethoven's genius, it's worthwhile, as with Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, to have two or three interpretations on hand (see below); stereo [G.R.]

B) VIRTUOSO: Martha Moedl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Furtwängler conducting ("live" at Vienna, Oct. 12, 1953); this "live" performance features everyone in good form, but above and beyond that, they are in good form under the only conductor, Furtwängler, who surpassed Klemperer in totality of outlook, architectural mastery and grandeur of unbroken line; it is something to have this nonpareil interpretation performed by a cast who are all at their best, a double bonus; in fairly good mono. NOT to be confused with the studio EMI recording with the identical cast, recorded for the most part during the wee hours(!) after a complete performance (why??) when Moedl was dog-tired [G.R.]

C) EMI: Kirsten Flagstad, Julius Patzak, Furtwängler conducting ("live" at Salzburg, 1950): this is EMI doing full justice to Furtwängler in a "live" setting; Flagstad and Patzak do full justice to Furtwängler's towering conception, but the rest of the principals in this 1950 aircheck are not so consistent as in 1953 (for one thing, Greindl's Rocco here is not the anchor that Frick's is in '53), though there are some great moments; in fact, many regard Flagstad's overwhelming vocal presence worth this entire set, and, if anything, Furtwängler himself is in even more Olympian form here than in #B; in good mono [G.R.]

D) MELODRAM: Leonie Rysanek, Jon Vickers, Böhm conducting; two overwhelming interpreters caught in full cry in another "live" event; this is the most intense of the "live" Fidelios with Rysanek's stunning vocal radiance and passion matching Vickers' full-throated, searing loneliness; mono [G.R.]

E) DG: Leonie Rysanek, Ernst Haefliger, Fricsay conducting; if anything, Rysanek is even more incandescent here in DG's studios with the crisp Maestro Fricsay than she is with Maestro Böhm in #D; Fricsay's interpretation is at an opposite pole from the Klemperer/Furtwängler tradition, but not any the less affecting for that--true pulse and sincere expressiveness are carefully balanced in this well-recorded effort; Haefliger scrupulously matches Fricsay's musical compactness; recorded in solid stereo [G.R.]

For Further Reading:

Ludwig Van Beethoven : Fidelio, by Paul Robinson (Cambridge Opera Handbooks Series)

Fidelio, by Forbes Deane (English National Opera Guides)

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This Page Last Revised 02/16/00 | Copyright © 1998 by Geoffrey Riggs
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