Beethoven: Fidelio

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Fidelio
PERFORMER: Waltraud Meier, Peter Seiffert, Carsten Stabell, Juha Uusitalo; Choir of Generalitat Valenciana; Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Zubin Mehta; dir. Pier’Alli (Valencia, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: 2072498 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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This recording features the opening performances given in the spectacular Palau de les Arts in Valencia, a building which looks like a cross between the Sage Gateshead and the Sydney Opera House, and of which I would like to see far more. Royalty is present. The cast is probably all round the best assembled for a production of Beethoven’s great work for many years. 

The production, by Pier’Alli, is straightforward, though the setting, on a vast scale, is sometimes hard to work out – is this a video effect or what the audience saw? Its main motif, from Marzelline’s ironing board onwards, is of instruments of torture – a museum’s worth of them.

The largely veteran cast give their all, with Matti Salminen receiving the warmest applause for his rounded performance as Rocco. Peter Seiffert is an implausibly well-fed Florestan, but sings and acts excellently.

Juha Uusitalo is the youthful villain Pizarro, strong of voice, if odd of accent. The two young non-lovers are traditional and charming. At the centre is the arch-professional Waltraud Meier, who acts and sings with immense conviction but looks entirely womanly. He is
in powerful but unbeautiful voice.  

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Still, all told and some quirks apart, what we see and hear from the stage is moving and wonderfully committed. I can’t say the same of Zubin Mehta, who conducts with the glib efficiency he brings to everything, and fails to get the best out of the orchestra: the introduction to Act II is tame stuff. But the sense of occasion is palpable, and I was enthralled. Michael Tanner