Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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
Top customer reviews
This would not be my first choice if you are going to have just one DVD of this great opera. I would give the palm to the Met/Levine/Mattila/Heppner/Pape version. But it would not be bad for a second version.
TT: 125mins; Sound: PCM stereo; Subtitles: German, French, English,T Italian, Dutch, Spanish; Format 4:3; Region Code: 0 (worldwide); NTSC.
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.
The big aria is a success, the awkward tessitura presenting
no problems; the security is of a rarely-matched standard,
the steadiness of the tone faultless. The top Bs ring out
commandingly. Moreover, you really believe in the passion
of Leonore's unwavering faith.
Where Benackova really shows her mettle, though, is in the
scene where she reveals her true identity to Pizarro, after
he brandishes his knife to Florestan. Her full-throttle cry
of "Zurück" is simply hair-raising: and when she launches
into the "Ich bin sein Weib, Geschworen hab ich ihm Trost,
Verderben dir," Benackova stuns with the overwhelming
power, thrust and intensity of her singing. The voice
sounds huge, full-bodied and in absolute focus - it alone
could seemingly blow Pizarro away; the resolute fury is
thrilling (I hate that overused word but its so apt here).
"O namenlose Freude" is one of those killer passages, after
a long night of singing, that seems to defeat many
sopranos; not Benackova - it is right on the money, poised
and deftly handled.
But what makes this such a winning portrayal is how honest
and straightforward Benackova's performance is. You see
registering in her face the spontaneous, inner responses to
the text and situation. The restraint is commendable, yet
it remains a warm, rather sweet assumption. Her success in
imparting these aspect is all the more impressive for the
amount of scrutinizing close-ups; no wild, bulging-eyed
reactions, and the security of her technique prevents the
typical facial contortions one often sees.
Josef Protschka's Florestan is another heartfelt portrayal.
Though a bit sqwawky at times, you really feel for his
character's pain. He and Benackova are totally believable
in their conjugal devotion, and their reunion and aftermath
is supremely moving.
Marie McLaughlin is a sweet Marzelline: she sets the tone
for a marvelously sung "Mir ist so wunderbar."
The late Monte Pederson is a properly nasty Pizarro: the
voice is a bit undersized for the role, but he is a good
Margit Bardy's sets are minimalist, grim and fittingly
depressing: the catacomb hellhole prison for Florestan is
terrifically claustrophobic and dank. Not sure about those
weird costumes, but they weren't distractingly offensive.
The prisoner's chorus is as usual moving and effective:
they are made to be dirty, tired and beat looking.
Christoph von Dohnanyi leads the Covent Garden forces with
skill and verve, really bringing the drama of the score.
I saw in the recent Opera Now that this release has been
"re-packaged" - I hope that means they'll do a better
engineering job than the one Image Entertainment did. The
LaserDisc incarnation I once had was outstanding - full,
rich, dynamic sound; on the Image DVD, the acoustic sounds
to me compressed and recessed. It took some fiddling with
the equalizer to enhance it.
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?
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!
I eventually had to skip to the ending credits and write down the relevant information to resolve this unforgivable oversight. Worse! Apart from a general (and brief) blurb about the importance of the opera when originally written, there is not a hint of any synopsis of the story line. I eventually figured this one out as well.
So this presentation had to lose one star.
It is still well worth having, but to save you from unnecessary grief, I give below details on the main characters, and at the same time indicate the parts they play. This is really all the information you require to fully appreciate this otherwise excellent presentation. I'm sure you will easily figure out the rest.
They are listed in order of appearance:
Jaquino (Neill Archer) - a prison turnkey, in love with Marzelline
Marzelline (Marie McLauglin) - In love with Fidelio, who is actually Leonore in disguise.
Rocco (Robert LLoyd) - father of Marzelline, and the chief prison guard
Fidelio, actually Leonore (Gabriela Benachova) - disguised as a male prison guard to try and rescue her husband, Florestan, who, she believes, is imprisoned in the dungeon.
Don Pizarro (Monte Pederson) - the prison Governor, and the "heavy" of the story; wants to "eliminate" Florestan.
First Prisoner (Lynton Atkinson)
Second Prisoner (Mark Beesley)
Florestan (Joseph Protschka) - a "freedom fighter" and a prisoner in the dungeon.
Don Fernando (Hans Tchammer) - a "fair minded" Government Minister
Most recent customer reviews
Set up an Amazon Giveaway
Look for similar items by category
- CDs & Vinyl > Classical
- CDs & Vinyl > Opera & Classical Vocal
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Arts & Entertainment
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Performing Arts
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Special Interests
- Movies & TV > Musicals & Performing Arts > Classical
- Movies & TV > Musicals & Performing Arts > Opera
- Movies & TV > TV