38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2011
I was lucky enough to be in Lucerne last summer where I saw one of the 2 performances of this Fidelio. This was one of the most memorable musical experience I ever had... which is saying much, since I attend concerts and go to the opera on a weekly basis. The cast was stellar and just pitch-perfect, from Jonas Kaufmann's jaw-dropping Florestan (his 'Gott!' at the beginning of Act II literally knocked us all off our feet) down to the absolute gem of Peter Mattei's cameo performance as Don Fernando. And Abbado's conducting was just a treasure of humanity - carrying the work to an almost unbearable level of pure emotion in the final chorus, which left me (and most of the audience) shaken and in tears. Even now, these final moments still ring in my ears and fill me with joy.
It is a tribute to Decca's sagacity and commitment that they are releasing a recording of these magical moments. Never more than in these difficult and exalting times have the message and music of Fidelio... and their embodiment of the values of hope, freedom and love been so relevant - and so needed. So don't hesitate - and snatch this wonderful flicker of light: if you bear any similarity to the Lucerne auidence of last year, you will cherish it for the years to come.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2011
There are two very good reasons for hearing this performance. First is Abbado's masterly handling of the score, lean and lithe, but contemplative at the same time. Very different from, say, Klemperer, but valid in a different way. The orchestral playing is superb as is the chorus. Just listen to he beautifully sung Prisoners' Chorus - worth the price of these discs alone. The other huge plus is Kaufmann's superb Florestan - just listen and marvel as his first 'Gott!' This is the best since Vickers, no doubt. Reservations creep in, however, with Stemme's Leonora. Not only is she somewhat ungainly, she doesn't appear to be right inside the part in the same way as Ludwig or Jurinac (both Klemperer) or even Dernesch (Karajan). The rest of the cast is fine, with no-one letting the side down. However, why do some producers feel it necessary to play around with the dialogue? I can understand some cuts for a staged performance as this was, but why do we have to have a producer's half-baked replacement of what Beethoven intended? For those of us who love this opera it does nothing but distract from our over-all enjoyment of it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2011
There is no shortage of wonderful recordings of this opera - Can we live without the mighty characterisation and rock solid vocals of C Ludwig and J Norman? How about the sublime performance of the lead role by Gundula Janowitz? The unforgettable dungeon aria by Jon Vickers? The near-definitive conducting of the score by Klemperer? But how about a new recording with 21st century sound and recording quality? Well, we should not be looking for pale imitations of historical giants of the work. Indeed, this recording by Abbado is redolent of the golden age of new opera recordings in the 90's (accepting this is not a studio recording), which gives listeners the rare pleasure of re-discovering a known classic- forcing you to hear the opera anew. Stemme's Fidelio/leonora may not please everybody, but her dark and deep soprano is solid, dramatic, heroic and tender in turns. To me, Koffman's Florestan is so characterful and dramatised that his interpretation sets itself quite apart from others. The supporting roles are all very well done. The orchestral sound and the recording balance are first class and Abbado's conducting is probably the crowning glory of the disc. It is as if i am hearing this wonderful opera for the first time, again. This has to be a modern classic.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"It's true - the man has such a voice..." - which applies not only to Jonas Kaufmann's haunting depiction of Florestan but to the vocal quality of the tenor himself. His characterisation of Florestan is deeply moving on a scale to match that of Jon Vickers' famous assumption, but not even Vickers could have managed the astounding messa di voce on the G of "Gott", the first note Florestan is given to sing as Act 2 opens in the dungeon. This marks an artistic and technical advance on the version on Kaufmann's recital album where, impressive though that is, he simply starts mezza voce and swells the note; this live performance of Florestan's aria is the kind of thing which will be anthologised in twenty years when a disc is issued commemorating great singers of the early 21C.
However, Kaufmann is not the only glory of this set; Abbado's conducting is of the highest order: exceptionally sensitive, shaped and nuanced, drawing meltingly lovely playing from a combination of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Just listen to the soft playing of the horns accompanying Nina Stemme in "Komm, Hoffnung". Indeed there is a chamber-music-like intensity and detail in Abbado's direction; everything he does makes you listen afresh to the humanity of this opera yet he in no sense emulates the kind of majestic grandeur of Klemperer's classic recording. The Prisoners' Chorus, for example, is sung by a smaller onstage chorus than is normal and I miss the swelling exaltation of their hymn to the sunlight which Klemperer creates, but instead we get a very touching, intimate sense of their suffering. I wish, however, that the truncated dialogue in the edition used here included some of my favorite moments such as Jaquino's announcement that "Der Herr Minister" Don Fernando has arrived and Rocco's response to it: "Wir kommen - ja, wir kommen augenblichlich!" and the heart-rending exchange between Florestan and Leonore exchange, "O mein Leonore, was hast du für mich getan?" - "Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan", before "O namenlose Freude!" The orchestra are sparing with but not afraid of vibrato, which is judiciously applied to lend Romantic ardour as and when required.
The other aspect of this live recording - the sound, by the way, is exceptionally full and clear, very well balanced and mercifully free of extraneous noise - which gave me most pleasure is Christof Fischesser's Rocco. He can be a blustering, blundering old boor/bore but the singer here, of whom I confess never to have heard but admire greatly on the evidence of this performance, makes him a warm, likeable pragmatist with a heart. He has a voice not of the rotund Gottlob Frick type but one in the lighter basso cantante tradition of Ridderbusch and Moll - an exceptionally clean, focused sound with an appealing edge. The other real, but brief, pleasure is to be found in Peter Mattei's Don Fernando, his beautiful baritone here sounding very similar to that of Simon Keenlyside - which I mean as high praise, especially as I recently heard the latter recently live at the Royal Opera House as a most impressive Macbeth and realised how much bigger his voice has become of late. The two lovers are very capable singers, especially Rachel Harnisch as a charming but not pert or shrill Marzelline.
About Stemme's Leonore and Struckmann's Pizarro I have some reservations, mainly on account of the excessive vibrato both allow to creep into their voices in the middle range, yet she is as committed and intense a Leonore as we have heard since Nilsson and Ludwig, with a big, soaring voice and very clear, dramatic enunciation of the text. I could do with a bit more abandon in "Abscheulicher" but she has all the notes up to a ringing top B. Struckmann characterises very well; he is a strikingly unpleasant and audibly psychotic Pizarro, whereas some singers, such as Tom Krause, as much as I love his voice, make him sound too noble. Dramatically, he is as convincing as Walter Berry for Klemperer, but Berry is a better, more flexible singer. But Kaufmann is simply a marvel.
This is another way to perform this elusive opera and the most successful since Klemperer's celebrated recording, which remains very different: more "old school" symphonic but equally uplifting, spritually; the Abbado is perhaps, though, more moving for being on a more human scale. It was obviously a great experience live and is equally rewarding on CD for repeated listening, owing to the sound quality and lack of stage noise.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2011
This is a live recording from the 2010 Lucerne Festival, though no applause or audience noises was audible.
I think Claudio Abbado really made a tremendous effort in interpreting the score as well as 'amalgamating' two chamber orchestras and one chorus.
As is noted by other reviewers, the ensemble work and orchestral performance are truly terrific. Starting right from the Overture, Abbado gribs his audience and put them all on their chairs' ends.
The soloists offer a very solid and even performance with a couple of standouts. Christof Fischesser and Jonas Kaufmann offer outstanding performances as Florestan and Rocco. To a slightly lessor extent is Nina Stemme's Leonora and Falk Struckmann's Don Pizzaro, but both are still sterling in their respective portrayals. As the young couple of Jaquin and Mazzeline, both Strehl and Harnish are nothing less than sterling, as is also the case with Mattei's Don Fernando.
True that Stemme in the big aria Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? could not bring out the dramatic intensity completely, but she was still convincing enough, whereas Jonas Kaufmann is truly amazing in Gott! - Welch Dunkel hier! as well as the trio Euch werde Lohn in bessern Welten.
The orchestras yield forth opulent sounds under the seasoned direction of the veteran Abbado. Indeed, the overall beauty of the performance is too overwhelming for minute quibbles, and a solid 5-stars is inevitable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2012
I have long wanted a definitive recording of Fidelio, and now I have found it. The combination of Claudio Abbado and the inimitable Lucerne Festival Orchestra, along with the voices of Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann has produced a sublime recording of Beethoven's towering work. As a longtime admirer of Abbado, I marvel that, after life-threatening illness, Abbado now seems to continually outdo himself, and with his own creation, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, his music reaches a heavenly quality. Very highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2011
In so many ways, this is an excellent disc. The playing is good, the choir wonderful, Kauffman confident in a challenging role, and even though I would not say Stemme is ideal casting, she is a marvellous singer. The only thing missing is possibly a little drama that fits the human side of the tale.
9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2011
After avid expectation I regret to say that this must be the most disappointing recording of Fidelio ever. I yield to no-one in my admiration of Maestro Abbado, but here I find his tempi totally unsympathetic. The production is almost a joke with the spoken voices in a
a vast cavernous accoustic very different from that used for the music. When will a record company have the guts to cut out all the morose German spiel and just record Beethoven's superb music.This set has one shining, redeeming feature...the singing of Jonas Kaufmann.
No one has ever come close to Jon Vickers on record but Herr Kaufmann surpasses even Vicker's achievement. I don't understand all the fuss about Nina Stemme, her Strauss CD was extremely heavy going, not to say downright dull, and the universal praise for her Isolde has me baffled.
Maybe she's better live !?!
on 13 February 2015
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2013
Had forgotten how much I liked this opera. It was great to listen to it again, such good music. Will keep on listening to it