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?
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 Marzelline
Marzelline (Marie McLauglin) - In love with Fidelio, who is actually Leonore in disguise.
Rocco (Robert LLoyd) - father of Marzelline, and the chief prison guard
Fidelio, 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 Minister