Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Medici Arts DVD 2007
09 Sep 2009

Fidelio from Glyndebourne and Medici Arts

Beethoven’s Fidelio is actually several works combined — a rescue opera in the grand style of the French revolution, a sentimental comedy focusing on mistaken identity, and a tragédie bourgeoise involving a husband, a wife, and their efforts to re-unite despite the actions of a relentless and implacable foe.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio

Carsten Stabell; Juha Uusitalo; Peter Seiffert; Waltraud Meier; Matti Salminen; Ildikó Raimondi; Rainer Trost; Javier Agulló; Nahuel di Pierro; Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana. Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana; Lorin Maazel, Music Director. Zubin Mehta

Medici Arts 2072498 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

As if this were not enough, the opera is also Beethoven’s political testament, an attack on tyranny and injustice initiated (quite literally) with a trumpeted call to arms for the forces of truth and fraternity. Fortunately, this confused (and some might argue, irreconcilable) juxtaposition of genres contains some of the composer’s most beautiful music, and lovers of the work will undoubtedly welcome these two recently released recordings of Beethoven’s only completed opera. Both performances date from 2006: an audio recording of a Glyndebourne production featuring Anja Kampe, Torsten Kerl, and the London Philharmonic conducted by Mark Elder, and a filmed performance (celebrating the opening of the new Palau de les Arts of Valencia) with Waltraud Meier and Peter Seiffert accompanied by the Community Orchestra of Valencia under Zubin Metha.

Glyndebourne_Fidelio.gif

A comparison of these two productions — one a two CD set, and the other a DVD — while inherently unfair, is revealing. From the first notes of the overture it is obvious that the Gyndebourne production features the better orchestra and more inspired conductor: throughout the performance Elder’s direction of the LPO is a heavenly delight. This is not meant as a criticism of Maestro Mehta, however, who still manages to create some powerful moments while working with a much younger and less accomplished orchestral ensemble. It is particularly regrettable that, unlike the Valencia version, the Glyndebourne production does not include a performance of the third Leonore overture before the second act finale (a tradition, begun by Mahler in Vienna, which Metha wisely follows). The Gyndebourne recording also features the better chorus (prepared by Thomas Blunt) — “O welche Lust” is sung with excellent diction, wonderful dynamic contrast, and superior balance by the British troupe. Elder’s direction of the LPO in the performance of the Haydenesque introduction to the chorus is unforgettable.

Waltraud Meier is a dynamic and powerful presence as Leonore, and her considerable talents are fully utilized in the Valencia production. The contrast between the vocal styles of Meier and Kampe is nowhere more evident than in “Mir ist so wunderbar” — Meier’s tone is commanding and mature, whereas Kampe’s seems less so. This comparison holds throughout the performances: Meier is simply more convincing and at ease in the showcase arias and duets. Her performance of “O namenlose Freude!” with Seiffert is remarkable, and is undoubtedly the happy result of their frequent collaboration together in other roles (most recently in the Met production of Tristan). Seiffert is less compelling when Meier is not on stage, however. Torsten Kerl’s Florestan is more endearing: the youthful tenor’s rendition of “Gott, Welch Dunkel hier” is athletic and impassioned, and made all the more enjoyable by the special touches added by the London Philharmonic’s wonderful accompaniment.

In the secondary roles each performance offers some special moments. Matti Salminen is surpisingly comfortable in his role as Rocco, and even pulls off the notoriously awkward “Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben” aria beautifully. While the voice is at times strained and raspy, his expressive presence, particularly in ensemble numbers, elevates the performances of his fellow cast members. Brindley Sherratt’s Rocco is adequate in the Glydnebourne version, but little more. Lisa Milne is impressive as Marzelline, and displays an enthusiasm for her role which Ildikó Raimondi seems not to. The rising Finnish star, Juha Uusitalo is an impressive and menacing Don Pizarro (seeing him interact on stage with fellow-Finn Salminen in the “Es schlägt der Rache Stunde” is a real treat), and Rainer Trost is a far more convincing and lyric Jaquino than Andrew Kennedy, whose voice seems forced and pinched throughout much of the performance.

Pierluigi Pier’Alli’s direction of the Valencia version features some fascinating video effects. His creative use of the motif of chains and prison bars (projected onto the screen on stage) which leads to Florestan’s aria to open Act II is highly effective. Despite this, some may find his otherwise rather conservative approach to much of the rest of the work a trifle dull, and it is unfortunate that Deborah Warner’s edgy Glyndebourne production can only be seen in a few photos in the album notes. One welcomes Pier’Alli’s willingness to allow Meier an opportunity to explore the full range of her dramatic abilities, particularly during the prisoner’s chorus, where the soprano wanders the stage in a futile search for Florestan — an unforgettable effect which she brings off beautifully.

Because of the merits of each performance it is difficult to choose between these two recordings. The Glyndebourne version is dynamic and more aurally pleasing, but the added visual dimension of the Valencia recording is quite powerful. Certainly, newcomers to Fidelio will appreciate the DVD version more than a sound recording, even a relatively good one. I suspect that those who already know the opera well will enjoy both of these new issues — each performance brings out different facets of the work, an opera which, despite its many flaws, remains one of the most enjoyable products of Beethoven’s genius.

Donald R. Boomgaarden
Dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts
Loyola University New Orleans

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):