Saturday, October 3, 2009

BEETHOVEN : FIDELIO

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 30th of December 2012  at 3.03- 5.5 pm
Sunday 15th of July 2012 at 3.03 - 5.10 pm
Sunday 4th of October 2009 at 3 pm
Sunday 12th of October 2008 at 3 pm
Sunday 30th of September 2007 at 3 pm


INTRODUCTION
PREVIEW
LIBRETTO

Sunday 30th of December 2012  at 3.03 - 5.5 pm
2012 Gramophone Award for Best Opera Recording
BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, an opera in two acts
Don Fernando.............. Peter Mattei
Don Pizarro.................. Falk Struckmann
Florestan...................... Jonas Kaufmann
Leonore........................ Nina Stemme
Rocco........................... Christof Fischesser
Marzelline.................... Rachel Harnish
Jaquino......................... Christoph Strehl
First prisoner................ Juan Sebastian Acosta
Second prisoner........... Levente Pall
Arnold Schoenberg Chorus, Mahler CO, Lucerne Festival Orch/
Claudio Abbado (Decca 478 2551)

Yes, Jonas Kaufmann is in the dungeon for this one, and Claudio Abbado is in the pit, only it is a concert performance in Lucerne, so the singers, the orchestra, and the conductor are all on the stage.

Sunday 15th of July 2012 at 3.03 - 5.10
BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, an opera in two acts
Florestan....................... Ian Storey
Leonore........................ Ricarda Merbeth
Rocco........................... Franz Hawlata
Marzelline..................... Talia Or
Jaquino......................... Alexander Kaimbacher
Don Pizarro................... Lucio Gallo
Don Fernando............... Robert Holzer
Prisoner........................ Matthew Pena
Royal Theatre Chorus & Orch, Turin/Gianandrea Noseda
(recorded in the Teatro Regio, Turin by Italian Radio)

Fidelio (alias Leonore) is a German opera based on a true French story (from the time of the Revolution) set in Spain (to avoid being censored in France) and here performed in Italy (though the conductor and the orchestra are the Italians).

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, an opera in two acts
Leonore........................ Waltraud Meier
Florestan....................... Simon O'Neill
Don Pizarro................... Gerd Grochowski
Rocco........................... John Tomlinson
Marzelline..................... Adriana Kucerova
Jacquino........................ Stephan Rügamer
Don Fernando............... Viktor Rud
BBC Singers, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir,
West-Eastern Divan Orch/Daniel Barenboim (BBC)
It is springtime and Fidelio blooms again. Tenor Simon O'Neill is buried in his dungeon once more, as Florestan; but he will rise up and flourish with his beloved wife Leonore alias Fidelio, this time in the person of Waltraud Meier. Simon was singing at the London Proms as one of the top ten tenors in the world. The wonderful orchestra is made up of young Palestinians and Israelis, and is directed by its founder Daniel Barenboim, a marvelous mensch.

What does the formidable Denis Forman have to say about Fidelio? In The Good Opera Guide (and he is not joking this time) he characterizes it as striking a blow for freedom, feminism, and prison reform, as "one of the greatest of all operas", and worthy of a mighty alpha.

This concert performance in the Albert Hall is in German, The earlier rendition in Auckland included a narration in English, by Beryl Te Wiata, as Leonore, recalling the events at the prison.

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, an opera in two acts
Narrator........................ Beryl Te Wiata
Leonore........................ Erika Sunnegårdh
Florestan....................... Simon O'Neill
Rocco........................... Andrew Greenan
Don Pizarro................... Peteris Eglitis
Marzelline..................... Madeleine Pierard
Jacquino........................ Adrian Strooper
Don Fernando............... Malcolm Ede
New Zealand Opera Chorus, Auckland Philharmonia/Jonas Alber
(recorded in the Auckland Town Hall by RNZ)

This Fidelio has the NZ tenor Simon O'Neill (see the sidebar for the address of his website, to see and hear what he is doing these days).
Unless I am mistaken, Erika Sunnegoardh is the soprano in the pictures from the NY Met production under the STORYLINE link (no longer working). She is with Ben Heppner. The audio recording they offer excerpts from is remarkable: Furtwängler is the conductor, and the singers are Kirsten Flagstad, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Josef Greindl, and Julius Patzak. He was the tenor I used to sing along with in Florestan's piece "Gott! welch Dunkel hier!" ("God! it's dark in here!", or "God! what darkness here", or "Alas! what darkness dense", as it said in my libretto book). Of course, in my youthful innocence I did not know I was a double bass, capable of growling a rock bottom Bb, but not the tenor's top Bb (though he only has to pass through it on a quaver), and I must have been using my "head tones", alias my "squeaky voice", or my true falsetto or phoney falsetto. By the way, speaking of the world's greatest tenors, in those days one of my big thrills was hearing Nessun Dorma sung on the radio by a mystery tenor; it was revealed that it was Harry Secombe. These days, in our local video opera group, I slip Luciano Pavarotti or Simon O'Neill into the program, and they both make the sign of the cross with their whole body at the end (Pavarotti also waves a white flag, but not in surrender).

You know that Beethoven did more than one version of his only opera, and I am pleased to possess a copy of Leonore, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, with Edda Moser as Leonore. For Fidelio I have Klemperer (Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers), and Furtwängler (Martha Mödl, Wolfgang Windgassen), though the second-hand shop only had record 1 of 3, so I don't hear WW, who was my favourite Bayreuth tenor, superior to all the other warblers and wobblers.

Recently (I am speaking on the 14th of July 2012, a special French day and in close proximity to my own anniversaire) I received a copy (3 x 12" discs) of a performance by Karl Boehm and the Dresden Staatskapelle (same orchestra as on Leonore); it used to belong to the Modern Languages Department at Massey University (as I did for a couple of years) and it was part of a pile that Glynnis Cropp presented to me (all the others emanated from the French Embassy).

I have sung in the prisoners' chorus from Act 1, when the Palmerston North Choral Society included Fidelio excerpts in a Beethoven concert. We had Michael Burch and Roger Wilson (both of whom have connections with Radio NZ).

My experience of seeing it on stage was at the Sydney Opera House. We were staying at a hotel in King's Cross, and in the next room was a male singer practising constantly. We found out that he was playing Don Fernando in Fidelio, and when the moment arrived we set off walking with him; but he realized that we would not get there in time, so he hailed a cab for us and promised to meet us in the Green Room. He did not have to appear on stage till the finale! It is a bit ungrateful of me to not even remember his name. His next role was to be Hans Sachs in Adelaide.

I had thought that this Auckland concert performance might not be recorded, and I said so on record. However, Radio NZ has such a close relationship with the Auckland Phiharmonia orchestra, that I hoped that even though it was not broadcast on the night (as usually happens), they might have saved it for an occasion like this. Also, a personal e-mail message to me from Simon O'Neill said: "I hope the broadcast for the Fidelio comes across well". And here it is, after all.

The highlight for us will be the inclusion of Simon O'Neill's voice in the mix. While he was here in August he was able to appear in the media. There was an Artsville documentary about his teacher Frances Wilson (he sang Wagner's Lohengrin, accompanying himself at one of her many pianos, and then abandoned the "bloody Germans" for some Italian gioia, as Verdi's Alfredo). His maturity and humility shone through in a radio interview with opera singer and announcer Kate Lineham (as former members of the national youth choir, they had a lot to reminisce about).

We historicomusicologists (forgetful though some of us may be) know that this is not the first occasion that Simon has been on the Sunday afternoon opera program. He was the High Priest in Idomeneo from the Metropera this year; and last year he was Lancelot in Chausson's Le Roi Arthus (King Arthur); you can actually buy that record (unless you recorded it off air onto videotape, without pictures, strictly for study purposes, not for illicit pleasure).

These Metropera archives are no longer accessible, and it is a crying shame.
COMPOSER
BACKGROUND
UNDERGROUND
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE
ANALYSIS
LIBRETTO German only

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