Beethoven: Fidelio

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Arthaus Musik
PERFORMER: Günther Groissböck, Alfred Muff, Jonas Kaufmann, Camilla Nylund, László Pólgár, Elizabeth Rae Magnuson, Christoph Strehl, Boguslaw Bidzinski, Gabriel Bermúdez; Zurich Opera House Orchestra & Chorus/Nikolaus Harnoncourt; dir. Jürgen Flimm (Zurich, 2004)
CATALOGUE NO: 107 111

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To hear the great duet between Florestan and Leonore, ‘O namenlose Freude’, perfectly in tune and perfectly paced is a rare joy. It’s achieved in this fine Fidelio, live from Zurich in 2004 – and it’s thanks to the conducting of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and to the inspired casting of Jonas Kaufmann and Camilla Nylund, both fearlessly packing every phrase with compellingly truthful shades of meaning.

Harnoncourt’s Beethoven is famously raw and earthy: strong on struggle and on the composer’s robust musical roots. And here the vicious avenging soul of Don Pizarro, too (impressively sung by Alfred Muff), is thrillingly reinforced by Harnoncourt’s characteristic weighty and stabbing accenting.

Yet there is huge space and time for the broad breath of humanity here, too – something picked up by Jürgen Flimm, directing his cast to use spare, telling body language, and by the totally uncluttered, light-inspired design of Rolf and Marianne Glittenberg.

The cameras’ eyes direct us almost imperceptibly to crucial moments of musical and human relationship: watch their focus at the end on this very sympathetic Rocco (Lászlo Pólgár), on Jaquino (Christoph Strehl), and on Elizabeth Rae Magnuson’s moving Marzelline.

The Second Act is splendidly achieved: the single open doorway of blue, freedom-beckoning sky is now shut; and, as darkness swallows up Florestan, floor-lighting gradually reveals Rocco and Leonore like angels, either side of an opened well whose circular rim seems an icon of the rolled-away stone of Resurrection. We see the moment through Florestan’s dazed eyes.

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There are no extras – neither are they needed in this absorbing 134 minutes of live theatre. Hilary Finch