I love opera and Beethoven’s “Fidelio” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the legendary Klemperer recording and this remains my number one recommendation.
Nikolas Harnoncourt could certainly not be termed a ‘mainstream’ conductor and his “Fidelio” is predictably thoughtful and dramatic. The orchestral passages of this eager, taut reading are magnificent and the playing of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is superb throughout.
His cast is a good one. Charlotte Margiano and Peter Seiffert are heroic and musical as Leonore and Florestan, that underrated singer László Polgár is one of the best Roccos on disc and Sergei Leiferkus rivals Fischer-Dieskau on the Fricsay set as a snarling, lean-voiced Pizarro. Barbara Bonney is one of the very best Marzellines and she is well partnered by Deon van der Walt. Bo Skovus is a trifle lightweight as the Minister, but sings and articulates well.
This is one of the best “Fidelios” out there; give it a try!
Harnoncourt really has a feel for Beethoven. The sound he draws from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe has an earthy quality that evokes a sense of theatre. The brass, woodwind and percussion, in particular, have an immediacy that makes you sit up in expectation. Dialogue is sensibly shaved to keep the pace and the drama moving.
I like Margiono as Leonore, she has an ample voice and secure through her range. I do prefer Ludwig under Klemperer but she is an attractive alternative with more power. Leiferkus tries a little too hard and makes Pizarro a two dimensional villain, but his voice is impressive though somewhat cold. Seiffert as Florestan has a weighty voice, in fact too much so - at the beginning of act II you could imagine the on priswalls crumbling under his top As. He makes no effort to convey a man holding on to the last dregs of his life. Polgar, Bonney, and Van der Walt as Rocco, Marzelline and Jacquino have fine voices and make up an excellent supporting cast.
So here is an atmospheric recording, and if, like me, you are a fan of Harnoncourt it is worth getting, especially on the bargain Teldec re-issue, but for a five star Fidelio get the Klemperer EMI edition.
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