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 »nd moves at a compelling pace to convey the emotionally charged theme of love and liberty over the forces of evil and oppression. Directed by Christoph von Dohnanyi. 124 minutes. Jaquino: Neill Archer
"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)
"This performance 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 actor.
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."
A Fidelio that succeeds out of the sum of its parts.
Plaza Marcelino | Caracas Venezuela | 05/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although we may be still in need of THE dvd Fidelio, this solid, reliable and competent ROH performance fills the void very well. Dohnanyi conducts the work in his usual objective, no-nonsense approach, yet projecting beautifully the melodic lines' essential nobility of spirit; he no doubt has the schooling and the feeling for that and finds in the ROH Orchestra a suitable and compliant vehicle for his wishes; they play outstandingly, mind you. He seems more preoccupied with reinforcing the work's architecture than in probing into the depths of beetovenian philosophy, however, and is well served by both the Covent Garden forces and Dresser's staging conception. Consequently, character projection advances beyond the sketchy and archetypical we usually and consensually blame on librettists Sonnleithner & Treitschke, and become more complex, a complexity to which contribute the intelligent singing of especially Benackova, Lloyd and Protschka (but why, according to Dresser, Pizarro surrenders the keys to the penal colony and simply walks away instead of being made prisoner himself is beyond me). As is rather customary today, there's no Leonore III inserted before the final scene.
Visual direction is superior, but there's no supplementary material; information on the covers is deficient."