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Beethoven: Fidelio (DVD) (ROH/Pappano)

Lise Davidsen, David Butt Philip, Georg Zeppenfeld, Simon Neal; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Antonio Pappano (Opus Arte / DVD)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
OA1334D_OABD7288D_Beethoven

Beethoven
Fidelio (DVD)
Lise Davidsen, David Butt Philip, Georg Zeppenfeld, Simon Neal; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Antonio Pappano; dir. Tobias Kratzer (London, 2020)
Opus Arte DVD: OA1334D ;Blu-ray: OABD7288D   133 mins

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Tobias Kratzer’s production was planned as the Royal Opera’s contribution to 2020’s Beethoven anniversary celebrations; but following a successful first night co-starring Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan, Covid reduced its run. Fortunately, and with a different tenor – David Butt Philip – the staging was filmed on 13 March, and it remains a major achievement.

The production itself is a controversial one. As Kratzer explains in a five-minute extra in which cast and creatives discourse on the opera, he regards Fidelio as a work in two very different halves – the first act a historical period-piece, the second a symbolic situation which he likens to a political essay. In practice this means that the first act plays in a realistic 18th-century France (the preference for that country over Spain leading to anomalies in itself), while the second is staged before and eventually with the involvement of a chorus in contemporary dress who could be members of some modern parliament. The results are mixed: always thoughtful, often rewarding, but sometimes ineffective; having Pizarro show his villainy by crushing Marzelline’s caged canary in his hand is a crass low point.

Few complaints about the musical performance, which is distinguished from the point of view of Covent Garden’s chorus and orchestra as well as conductor Antonio Pappano, who brings dignity and dynamism to his task. Lise Davidsen makes an ideal Leonore, perfectly matched by the shining tone of her tenor partner. Simon Neal is an impressive Pizarro, with Georg Zeppenfeld an impeccable Rocco and both Amanda Forsythe’s Marzelline and Robin Tritschler’s Jaquino as fine as could be.

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George Hall