Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Beethoven - Fidelio / Dohnanyi Benackova Protschka Royal Opera House Covent Garden|
Actors: Gabriela Benackova, Josef Protschka, Neill Archer, Marie McLaughlin, Robert Lloyd
Director: Derek Bailey
Genres: Art House & International, Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Composed during the Napoleonic era, Ludwig Van Beethoven's only opera is an inspired testament to humanity's constant quest for freedom. This critically praised Covent Garden production by Adolf Dresen is powerfully cast a... more »
A Glorious Fidelio
ric brown | Ontario, Canada | 06/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my seventh or eighth opera on DVD (I have over 250 operas on CD)and since I had never heard of the principal singers before, I was rather anxious when I bought it. However, the entire production is really quite glorious. It is everything a Fidelio should be in terms of voice, orchestra, scenery and visuals, and sound reproduction. This has been the only opera DVD I have purchased that I felt obliged to watch straight through (it got better and better) and then I watched it again the following day in its entirety. I haven't been able to give von Karajan's Don Giovanni a complete run through yet. So inspite of my not knowing the principals, I would very highly recommend this DVD to anyone. It is, in my opinion, a "must have"."
Well sung & staged; marred by poor supporting documentation
George Nadur | Valsayn Park South Trinidad and Tobago | 08/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"All the elements are there for an enjoyable experience. Whilst not in the front line of operas, such as Aida, Rigoletto, Carmen and La Traviata, Beethoven's Fidelio is composed of music that is deeply satisfying. The story line, when you eventually figure this out (see below), is appealing, even in modern times. The singers are quite competent and photogenic, and sing with feeling and good stage presence. It is somewhat odd that a burly and healthy looking Joseph Protschka sings the part of Florestan, when he is supposed to have been some time in the dungeon, and on "half rations", but, hey, this is opera!The audio is very good; both PCM Stereo and Dolby 5.1 options are available; thanks mainly to the conductor (Christoph Von Dohnanyi). The video is clear and crisp.Generally, stage presentations of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden are second only to the Metropolitan's; the less lavish budgets of the former, may account for this. The set lighting for this Fidelio is bright, and the backdrops appealing.Then why not five stars?Poor packaging!It has become standard for DVD operatic presentations to come with no libretto, so I cannot complain about this. But all the packaging gives are the names of the singers. Some of these singer's voices and faces will not be at all familiar to most of us, so it is very confusing at first, to try and identify the singers and the parts they are portraying. Especially so, when, early on, one of the male looking singers, Fidelio (aka Leonore), is clearly a woman (she is - see below), and another woman (Marzelline) is in love with him (her) to the delight of the latter's (Marzelline's) father (Rocco). Confusing isn't it!I eventually had to skip to the ending credits and write down the relevant information to resolve this unforgivable oversight. Worse! Apart from a general (and brief) blurb about the importance of the opera when originally written, there is not a hint of any synopsis of the story line. I eventually figured this one out as well.So this presentation had to lose one star.It is still well worth having, but to save you from unnecessary grief, I give below details on the main characters, and at the same time indicate the parts they play. This is really all the information you require to fully appreciate this otherwise excellent presentation. I'm sure you will easily figure out the rest.They are listed in order of appearance:Jaquino (Neill Archer) - a prison turnkey, in love with MarzellineMarzelline (Marie McLauglin) - In love with Fidelio, who is actually Leonore in disguise.Rocco (Robert LLoyd) - father of Marzelline, and the chief prison guardFidelio, actually Leonore (Gabriela Benachova) - disguised as a male prison guard to try and rescue her husband, Florestan, who, she believes, is imprisoned in the dungeon.Don Pizarro (Monte Pederson) - the prison Governor, and the "heavy" of the story; wants to "eliminate" Florestan.First Prisoner (Lynton Atkinson)Second Prisoner (Mark Beesley)Florestan (Joseph Protschka) - a "freedom fighter" and a prisoner in the dungeon.Don Fernando (Hans Tchammer) - a "fair minded" Government MinisterEnjoy!"
Plaza Marcelino | 12/24/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Good, not great. For one thing, the dialogue is kinky. How could any producer of "Fidelio" omit that wonderful exchange: when Florestan tells his wife how much she's done for him, and she replies, "Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan." A real weeper, for sure. And this guy cuts it. AAAH!Singing is good. Staging is rather less impressive than the old Glyndebourne production on video. When will someone release Bernstein's production?"
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
became the source for which I learned the opera inside and
out. FIDELIO is a great opera. Full of Beethoven's heart
and soul, about tenacity, loyalty, love, courage and
steadfast devotion. I do not see the "faults" that have
been leveled against it. By the time of that final chorus,
I'm swept away in its soaring emotionalism.
I saw the Mattila MET telecast. A fine performance by the
soprano, involved and committed, but I do not feel it is
right for her voice. She certainly has the highs, but not
the lows, and the color of the timbre does not seem to be
right for the richness of Leonore's vocal persona.
What makes the 1991 Covent Garden performance so special
for me: Gabriela Benackova's Leonore. It was held in many
of the reviews of the initial LaserDisc & VHS release by
many critics that she lacked the intensity of Soderstrom
and some of the past exponents of the role, but I disagreed
heartily after the very multiple viewings I took in.
No, Benackova struck me as being deeply sincere, touching,
and dignified. No overdone histrionics here: as a result,
her traversal of the music is about the best sung, most
accurately handled to my ears. I heard most of the major
recordings - Ludwig (committed, but stretched at the top),
Nilsson (not enough warmth) Rysanek (uneven throughout the
range) Jones (squally) Janowitz (glacial) ~~~ the recent
ones I haven't heard.
Benackova's rich, warm tone is ideally suited to the score,
and she uses her voice with unfailing, consummate skill.
The big aria is a success, the awkward tessitura presenting
no problems; the security is of a rarely-matched standard,
the steadiness of the tone faultless. The top Bs ring out
commandingly. Moreover, you really believe in the passion
of Leonore's unwavering faith.
Where Benackova really shows her mettle, though, is in the
scene where she reveals her true identity to Pizarro, after
he brandishes his knife to Florestan. Her full-throttle cry
of "Zurück" is simply hair-raising: and when she launches
into the "Ich bin sein Weib, Geschworen hab ich ihm Trost,
Verderben dir," Benackova stuns with the overwhelming
power, thrust and intensity of her singing. The voice
sounds huge, full-bodied and in absolute focus - it alone
could seemingly blow Pizarro away; the resolute fury is
thrilling (I hate that overused word but its so apt here).
"O namenlose Freude" is one of those killer passages, after
a long night of singing, that seems to defeat many
sopranos; not Benackova - it is right on the money, poised
and deftly handled.
But what makes this such a winning portrayal is how honest
and straightforward Benackova's performance is. You see
registering in her face the spontaneous, inner responses to
the text and situation. The restraint is commendable, yet
it remains a warm, rather sweet assumption. Her success in
imparting these aspect is all the more impressive for the
amount of scrutinizing close-ups; no wild, bulging-eyed
reactions, and the security of her technique prevents the
typical facial contortions one often sees.
Josef Protschka's Florestan is another heartfelt portrayal.
Though a bit sqwawky at times, you really feel for his
character's pain. He and Benackova are totally believable
in their conjugal devotion, and their reunion and aftermath
is supremely moving.
Marie McLaughlin is a sweet Marzelline: she sets the tone
for a marvelously sung "Mir ist so wunderbar."
The late Monte Pederson is a properly nasty Pizarro: the
voice is a bit undersized for the role, but he is a good
Margit Bardy's sets are minimalist, grim and fittingly
depressing: the catacomb hellhole prison for Florestan is
terrifically claustrophobic and dank. Not sure about those
weird costumes, but they weren't distractingly offensive.
The prisoner's chorus is as usual moving and effective:
they are made to be dirty, tired and beat looking.
Christoph von Dohnanyi leads the Covent Garden forces with
skill and verve, really bringing the drama of the score.
I saw in the recent Opera Now that this release has been
"re-packaged" - I hope that means they'll do a better
engineering job than the one Image Entertainment did. The
LaserDisc incarnation I once had was outstanding - full,
rich, dynamic sound; on the Image DVD, the acoustic sounds
to me compressed and recessed. It took some fiddling with
the equalizer to enhance it."