Academic journal article Notes

Fidelio

Academic journal article Notes

Fidelio

Article excerpt

Ludwig von Beethoven. Fidelio. DVD. Opernhaus Zurich Chorus and Orchestra / Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Recorded live at the Opernhaus Zürich on 15 February 2004. With Camilla Nylund, Jonas Kaufmann, Günther Groissbock, Alfred Muff, Lázló Polgár, Elizabeth Rae Magnuson, Christoph Strehl. Ratingen, Germany: TDK, 2005. DVUS-OPFID. $29.99.

Zürich Opera's performance of Beethoven's only opera is minimalist in terms of staging and sets, which leaves the listener/ viewer to enjoy a fine overall vocal and orchestral performance. The well-prepared video production enhances the performance by emphasizing dramatic moments through creative camera work and close-ups.

Some of the most interesting video work appears during the well-known overture. We see close-up views of orchestral playing on cue as individual solos and sectional soli occur, and a unique view of the conductor from the musicians' vantage point. The orchestra's outstanding performance continues throughout, and thankfully, Harnoncourt does not allow them to overpower the singers.

Fidelio's plot is steeped in deceit and intrigue. Leonore disguises herself as Fidelio in order to gain employment at a high-security prison to free her husband, who has been sentenced to death. The jailer's daughter falls in love with her/him and Leonore/Fidelio must agree to marriage in order to maintain secrecy. Eventually, Leonore/Fidelio shocks everyone by challenging the prison governor and placing herself between the executioner's knife and her weakened husband.

The opera is full of ensemble singing, and the fine vocalists, along with restraint from the orchestra allow one to hear each vocal line clearly. The first act quartet featuring Leonore/Fidelio, Rocco, Jaquinio, and Marzelline is an example. The camera edits greatly aid non-German speakers' understanding of the plot as the video cues showing individual characters singing different text correspond well with subtitles. …

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