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Fidelio

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in 1970, German television took Fidelio into the studio and filmed the Deutsche Oper Berlin's production of the composer's only opera. Karl Böhm, well-known as a master conductor of this opera, leads an astonishing performance which emphasizes orchestral clarity and emotional depth. The conductor leads a strong cast headed by the glorious Gwyneth Jones and powerful James King in the starring roles. First time on DVD! "Gwyneth Jones sang a passionate Leonore...James King was a Florestan on the summit of his vocal expression." (Berliner Morgenpost)

Amazon.com

Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio is often problematic in performance but this 1970 production by the Deutschen Opera Berlin with an all-star cast led by conductor Karl Böhm, dispels all reservations. The opera house’s production was moved to a studio where it was filmed with barely a hint of lip-synch problems. Video director Ernst Wild’s fluid camera movements and closeups render the story more intimate, and thus more believable. The sets and period costumes by Wilhelm Reinking are effective without overtly calling our attention to them, an indication that the music comes before flashy visuals that may compete for our attention. The same can be said for the staging by Gustav Rudolf Sellner. The story of injustice and tyranny and abuse of political prisoners unfortunately carries a contemporary relevance. Still, the story of Leonore, the prisoner’s wife who dons male attire, gets a job at the prison, and saves her husband from the murderous Pizzaro does require suspended belief as does the last-minute arrival of the King’s minister who sets everything right. What makes Fidelio so powerful is Beethoven’s music, especially when performed with the intensity of this cast and Böhm, a masterful Beethoven conductor who gets everything right here. He exposes the tensions underlying the light-hearted banter at the start of Act I, makes the Prisoner’s Chorus heart-wrenching, and sparks the joyful ending. His tempos and the playing he elicits from the chorus and orchestra are superb. It helps that he has a first-class international cast at his disposal. Soprano Gwyneth Jones had a reputation for uneven singing but in 1970 she was in fine vocal shape and her voice easily handles the role’s demands. Her Abscheulicher aria is spine-tingling and her acting throughout is more than convincing. A surprise here is Olivera Miljakovic, as Marzelline, the jailors daughter, who sings with a fresh, bright voice that blends well in ensembles. The men are uniformly excellent. Tenor James King is a powerful Florestan, the prisoner in the dungeon, singing with anguished tones that capture the man’s desperation. As the foolish but good hearted jailor, Josef Greindl acts and sings well, as does the bad guy, the prison governor, Pizarro, sung by another Bayreuth stalwart, Gustav Neidlinger. And to have a great basso like Martti Talvela in what’s really a cameo role as the King’s Minister, is icing on a very enticing cake. This is about as good a DVD Fidelio as we have. --Dan Davis

Fidelio is an all-regions color disc in 4:3 ratio. Sound options include PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround. Sung in German, subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Gwyneth Jones, Martti Talvela, Josef Greindl, James King, Barry McDaniel
  • Directors: Gustav Rudolf Sellner
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Classical, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German (DTS 5.1), German (PCM2 .0)
  • Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: August 12, 2008
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012L0TC0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,517 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
I totally agree with the first review. I approached this Fidelio with some caution because it was a studio film and I didn't think you can get any emotional impact but I was wrong on that. The production looks like, or at least comes close to, the actual live performance. This is a beautiful production by any standard present or past and the camera work is outstanding. The closeups very effective. But it's the singing that counts and Karl Bohm's masterful conducting. It never surprises me to find the best performances when Bohm is involved. This is a powerful and passionate cast.
Gwyneth Jones is glorious. Her voice is huge and expressive and she always delivers a well acted and involved performance. The rest of the cast is equally as strong. Gustav Neidling, Josef Greindl, James King and the bigger than life Martti Talvela.
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By P. Ho on September 15, 2008
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I love Beethoven. And I especially love "Fidelio". But I also realize how hard it is to pull it off, and why it took the composer so long to finally get the opera to its final form. The first act can be long and shapeless in the wrong hands thanks to the combination of spoken dialogue and music. A strong director is required to make sure that things don't sag. The same can be said of the music which requires a great conductor to maintain control and yet still provide exuberant fireworks but also supporting the singers' needs. The singers themselves come across some of the most demanding music in opera, particularly the main soprano and tenor. So severe is the music in its demands that rarely do any singers tackling the roles of Leonore (Fidelio) and Florestan ever sound effortless and truly at ease.
In this DVD we have not a live performance but a filmed one from 1970. (It's too bad there isn't a complete live performance of the Vienna performances that same year w/ Leonard Bernstein; parts of the performance and the rehearsals were recorded, but since I am greedy I wish there were far more existing). At first this distracts the viewer, as we see singers lip synching in different degrees of success. The acting itself is at times rather stagey as well, but ultimately one gets used to these minor points, particularly with such a sympathetic a protagonist as Gwyneth Jones in the title role. Her singing her is at her early best, just before she started having control problems. She has strong rapport with Josef Greindl's wonderful Rocco.
James King is still under rated today. We still read lots of "yes, but" qualifiers whenever critics write about his performances. Here he too is at his very best: a truly lean, masculine sound with an even tone from top to bottom.
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I have watched several different DVD productions of "FIDELIO" and have owned a couple but this 1970 performance is the GREATEST and most fulfilling which I have experienced! I have had the great joy of being at several live performances at the Metropolitan Opera of this Beethoven masterpiece when Karl Bohm conducted. He always builds his performances to achieve a fantastic climax where you really feel the great joy, courage and love of Leonore and Florestan...(hard to keep a dry eye). Bohm drives the production without an intermission which allows you to feel the emotions without a break...genius! The cast is top rate. Bohm enjoys working with Jones, King, Talvela (he used them on the CD of this opera too). You won't be disappointed. This is another "ode to Joy" !!!
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This is a beautifully sung and staged film of Fidelio. It catches Dame Gwynneth Jones before she began to show the vocal difficulties that would characterize her later work. James King is fine as Florestan, and the other cast members are superb. Sets and decor are traditional and nicely presented. Highly recommended.
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OK first a warning: you don't actually see anyone sing. It's a recording with the singers lip-synching.

But you do get to see them act. And they're utterly fantastic. Especially Josef Greindl and Gustav Neidlinger, who owned the villian roles at Bayreuth during the 1950s and 60s. At Bayreuth most of the audience can barely see the singers' faces. Who knew they were such excellent closeup face-artists on top of everything else? Either of them could have had a career in movies. Neidlinger is sort of like Edward G. Robinson for German opera. The same explosions of gleeful sadistic pleasure that invite you to join him in kicking the bigger opponent when he's down. Infantile but also cunning and dangerous.
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Verified Purchase
I bought this DVD after seeing a stage production, and it added enormously to my understanding and enjoyment of this opera. This opera has more "talk" in it than many others in the classical repertoire, and seeing it in close-up in the excellent studio setting really let me appreciate it fully. Both the singing and the acting were superlative (Gwyneth Jones in particular), and I was amazed that even with extreme close-ups there was scarcely any trace of lip-synching. This DVD should be in everyone's collection.
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