Beethoven: Fidelio; Leonore Overture No. 1; Leonore Overture No. 2; Leonore Overture No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Fidelio; Leonore Overture No. 1; Leonore Overture No. 2; Leonore Overture No. 3
PERFORMER: Waltraud Meier, Plácido Domingo, René Pape, Soile Isokoski, Werner Güra; German State Opera Chorus, Berlin Staatskapelle/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-25249-2
Consistency and coherence are the hallmarks of Barenboim’s traditionalist Fidelio, a slap in the face to authenticists and their kind, but a triumphant vindication of Beethoven’s oft-maligned musico-dramatic vision. Originating in semi-staged performances in Chicago, shorn of dialogue but provided with a newly minted narration devised by Edward Said (reprinted in the booklet but not included on the recording), this Fidelio unfolds as a symphonic array of sharply etched musical snapshots, diverse in character but unified by a singular intensity of purpose.

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The co-ordinates of this Fidelio are well mapped out from the outset by the preference for the brooding second Leonore Overture and the (Beethoven-sanctioned) reversal of the first two vocal numbers: Marzelline’s plainte d’amour is presented here as no mere stage pathos, but symptomatic of the deeper malaise pervading the entire opera, thereby subordinating the problematic Singspiel qualities of the first scene to the weightier overview. The Marzelline and Jaquino – the excellently paired Soile Isokoski and Werner Güra – are ideally cast here, darker of voice than usual and, in the Quartet, perfectly integrated with the genial Rocco of René Pape and the remarkable Leonore of Waltraud Meier.

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Meier must indeed be the most accomplished Leonore for many years, finding no apparent rupture between the proto-Wagnerian rhetoric of ‘Abscheulicher!’ and the almost Gluckian severity of the succeeding ‘Komm, Hoffnung’. As with Domingo’s similarly peerless, aristocratic Florestan – effortlessly despatched – technique and interpretation are indistinguishable. With the addition of Falk Struckmann’s irascible Pizarro, robust contributions from the Chorus of Berlin’s German State Opera and first-class playing from the Berlin Staatskapelle, this absorbing Fidelio must surely replace the ubiquitous Klemperer as the current benchmark – and not before time.