• James Waters Classical

Day 383 - Why is Beethoven's only opera so special?

The pandemic was very unkind to Beethoven. 2020 was the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth and almost every event planned to celebrate it was cancelled. I wonder why no-one has patented the brand of Beethoven 251 or even, conservatively Beethoven 252. One of the last events which took place (only the last performance was cancelled) was a production of his only opera Fidelio at the Royal Opera House with the dream cast of Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan and Lise Davidsen as Leonora. Why is Fidelio so special? The secret is in the amazing music underpinning themes of love and freedom. The rage of Leonora at the torturer Pizarro is memorably expressed in the aria 'Abscheulicher'. The desperate yearning for freedom is shown by the prisoners' chorus as they are released for their daily exercise, and there is no more ecstatic love duet in the operatic canon than 'O namenlose Freude as Florestan and Leonora are re-united. Beethoven was obsessed with the piece, producing two versions and three Leonora overtures before the final one. The first version ' Leonora' is well worth a listen as there are many differences from the final version. The third of the Leonora overtures is perhaps the greatest of all overtures and conductors and directors often include it before the final scene of the opera as a musical bonus. If you want a recording of this work of genius, look no further than the Klemperer live recording from Covent Garden!


Antonio Pappano talks about the Royal Opera Fidelio click here

Fidelio from Garsington Opera click here

To listen to Klemperer Fidelio click here

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