Beethoven: Fidelio

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Fidelio
PERFORMER: Melanie Diener, Roberto Saccà, Kre≥imir Straˇzanac, Lucio Gallo, Alfred Muff, Sandra Trattnigg, Christoph Strehl; Zurich Opera Chorus & Orch/Bernard Haitink; dir. Katharina Thalbach (Zurich, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1023 D

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There seems to be something about Fidelio which inhibits passionate, straightforward productions of it, such as we had about 40 years ago. Perhaps our cynicism about all politicians makes its message of the possibility of universal brotherhood seem callow.

This production from Zurich seems, to begin with, to be traditional; but then we notice that the characters are wearing clothes from different periods – no harm in that; and then, when the villain Pizzaro appears, he is dressed entirely in white, with double-breasted waistcoat, an eye-rolling gangster, and behaves with such absurdly exaggerated menace that the whole drama becomes, literally, a joke.

A pity, because there are some fine performances, especially from Roberto Saccà as Florestan, and for much of her role from Melanie Diener as Fidelio, though she can’t cope with all Beethoven’s vocal demands.

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Haitink’s conducting is mostly staid, and he doesn’t get the Zurich orchestra to play as well as it can: the Leonore No. 3 Overture is given a laborious account. Michael Tanner