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3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This recording was made in London in November and December
1990 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where Ludwig van
Beethoven's Fidelio was seen in the production of the Théâtre de
la Monnaie in Brussels. London's press agreed it was honestly
staged, outstandingly cast and sensitively directed by Christoph
von Dohnányi. The singing and artistic achievements of Gabriela Benacková as Leonore and of Josef Protschka as
Florestan were singled out, but the accomplishments of the other interpreters
were equally good. The stage set and costumes by Margit Bardy were based on traditional models. Adolf Dresens, who
was also responsible for reworking the dialogue, put an enchanting and mature production on the stage: the triumph
of love is depicted in all its natural simplicity.


This is a stunningly dramatic presentation--aurally and visually--of this unique masterpiece, which stands at the crossroads of the operatic and symphonic repertoires. All the elements are in place, but a most striking feature is the lighting on stage (Erich Falk) and as captured on Derek Bailey's video. The prisoners' chorus is breathtaking, a living Rembrandt canvas, its rich patina shadowed by age. In the dungeon, bright spots illuminate individuals amid sheer blackness. Throughout the opera, subtle sidelights and backlighting soften yet energize the many facial close-ups. The production (Margit Bardy) is straight early 19th-century realism (no Eurotrash at Covent Garden!), the settings stark and plain, as befits the prison environment. A chilling touch is the single sentry pacing atop the ramparts, scanning the road from Seville for the Minister's approach; we see him and his bayonet-carrying rifle silhouetted against the sky at the top of the screen. The direction (Adolf Dresen) is natural and straightforward; no one ever steps out of character. During Rocco's "Gold" aria, one sees how opera singers must adapt to minor mishaps: he locks his cash-box and starts to pick it up, but the lock hasn't caught; he seamlessly relocks it without missing a beat. When he throws a coin to each listener, Jacquino misses his, and Marzelline has to pick it up; only later does one realize that this was intentional: Jacquino wants no part of the marriage being discussed, while Marzelline treasures every aspect. It's a small touch, but telling. One sign of the age of the production is Rocco's vigorously bouncing his grown daughter on his lap, which seems shockingly un-PC in our more sensitive era. A more humorous miscalculation is a caged canary that Marzelline studies during a break in her aria; the image--another prisoner--is effective, but the bird is real, and, comes the quartet, it jumps about in consternation, as if to say, "That's not the way I would sing it." Archer's Jacquino is more than a silly love-struck boy; he is something of an arrogant punk. This Marzelline is not just a piece of fluff; despite her misdirected passion for Fidelio, she doesn't want to hurt the annoying, aggressive Jacquino. McLaughlin's voice is heavier than we are used to in the role; it fits this more mature young woman, better than her neat lipstick and mascara suit a poor jailer's daughter. Lloyd's bass is too light for Rocco; he manages his solos well but fails to anchor the trios and quartets. Beňačková was never the greatest singer, but her voice had a luminous character and a humanity ideal for this role, and she was still close enough to her prime to pour out glorious tone. She is a most affecting Fidelio/Leonore. Pederson's snarling, sneering Pizarro is a vicious, violent villain. He shouts a bit in his singing, which is perfect for the character. A giant of a man, he throws crippled old Rocco to the ground--can't get more villainous than that. Protschka is a superb Florestan, his aria the next best thing to Vickers. In another fine directorial touch, his opening cry echoes through the empty cistern; only then do the lighting and the camera find him. In the dungeon scene, Pederson proves a somewhat wooden actor. No matter: powered by the most dramatic music ever written, the scene unfolds inexorably. Don Fernando is a distinguished Victorian gentleman in a top hat; as always, what should be a commanding presence is not achieved by the third baritone/bass in the cast. The orchestra is excellent, if a touch refined at oboe and horns; Dohnányi gets both strength and precision from everyone. The chorus is satisfactory but not exceptional. There is much dialogue, but none after the rescuing trumpet call. Jacquino does not appear on the ladder announcing "Der Herr Minister ist angekommen" and Rocco does not get to reply "Wir kommen--ja, wir kommen augenblichlich!" (which has become a well-worn phrase at our house). Nor do Florestan and Leonore exchange the heart-rending "O mein Leonore, was hast du für mich getan?" . . . "Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan" before breaking onto "O namelose Freude!" I miss those few seconds, which not only offer welcome momentary respite from the incessant, pounding action but also strengthen the drama that follows. There is no Third Leonore Overture. Audio and video quality is amazingly fine for a 1991 live performance. Except for one dead spot near the canary, voices project as if in a studio; there is a minimum of extraneous stage noise, and the English public is most polite. The video is as clean and clear as one could ask from a pre-Blu-ray disc; an occasional pan or zoom loses focus for a second. I know nothing of the possibilities or limitations of video post-processing, but the results are outstanding: colors bright, hues subtle. The audio is PCM stereo, the picture format 4:3; subtitles are available in German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch. Superb direction and lighting enable this performance to exceed the sum of its admirable parts by far. This could be your first and only video Fidelio. -- Fanfare, James H. North, January 2010

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Gabriela Benackova, Josef Protschka, Neill Archer, Marie McLaughlin, Roberty Lloyd
  • Directors: Dohnanyi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: July 28, 2009
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FII19E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,757 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is my seventh or eighth opera on DVD (I have over 250 operas on CD)and since I had never heard of the principal singers before, I was rather anxious when I bought it. However, the entire production is really quite glorious. It is everything a Fidelio should be in terms of voice, orchestra, scenery and visuals, and sound reproduction. This has been the only opera DVD I have purchased that I felt obliged to watch straight through (it got better and better) and then I watched it again the following day in its entirety. I haven't been able to give von Karajan's Don Giovanni a complete run through yet. So inspite of my not knowing the principals, I would very highly recommend this DVD to anyone. It is, in my opinion, a "must have".
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Format: DVD
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?
Poor packaging!
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!
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Format: DVD
This performance

became the source for which I learned the opera inside and

out. FIDELIO is a great opera. Full of Beethoven's heart

and soul, about tenacity, loyalty, love, courage and

steadfast devotion. I do not see the "faults" that have

been leveled against it. By the time of that final chorus,

I'm swept away in its soaring emotionalism.

I saw the Mattila MET telecast. A fine performance by the

soprano, involved and committed, but I do not feel it is

right for her voice. She certainly has the highs, but not

the lows, and the color of the timbre does not seem to be

right for the richness of Leonore's vocal persona.

What makes the 1991 Covent Garden performance so special

for me: Gabriela Benackova's Leonore. It was held in many

of the reviews of the initial LaserDisc & VHS release by

many critics that she lacked the intensity of Soderstrom

and some of the past exponents of the role, but I disagreed

heartily after the very multiple viewings I took in.

No, Benackova struck me as being deeply sincere, touching,

and dignified. No overdone histrionics here: as a result,

her traversal of the music is about the best sung, most

accurately handled to my ears. I heard most of the major

recordings - Ludwig (committed, but stretched at the top),

Nilsson (not enough warmth) Rysanek (uneven throughout the

range) Jones (squally) Janowitz (glacial) ~~~ the recent

ones I haven't heard.

Benackova's rich, warm tone is ideally suited to the score,

and she uses her voice with unfailing, consummate skill.
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Format: DVD
Although we may be still in need of THE dvd Fidelio, this solid, reliable and competent ROH performance fills the void very well. Dohnanyi conducts the work in his usual objective, no-nonsense approach, yet projecting beautifully the melodic lines' essential nobility of spirit; he no doubt has the schooling and the feeling for that and finds in the ROH Orchestra a suitable and compliant vehicle for his wishes; they play outstandingly, mind you. He seems more preoccupied with reinforcing the work's architecture than in probing into the depths of beetovenian philosophy, however, and is well served by both the Covent Garden forces and Dresser's staging conception. Consequently, character projection advances beyond the sketchy and archetypical we usually and consensually blame on librettists Sonnleithner & Treitschke, and become more complex, a complexity to which contribute the intelligent singing of especially Benackova, Lloyd and Protschka (but why, according to Dresser, Pizarro surrenders the keys to the penal colony and simply walks away instead of being made prisoner himself is beyond me). As is rather customary today, there's no Leonore III inserted before the final scene.

Visual direction is superior, but there's no supplementary material; information on the covers is deficient.
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