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Beethoven: Fidelio (Lise Davidsen)

Lise Davidsen et al; Dresden Philharmonic/Marek Janowski (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Lise Davidsen, Georg Zeppenfeld, Christian Elsner, Christina Landshamer, Johannes Martin Kränzle; Dresden Philharmonic/Marek Janowski
Pentatone PTC 5186 880 (CD/SACD)   109:19 mins (2 discs)


A new edition of Beethoven’s sole opera, and a conductor who knows how to strip the varnish off old musical masters; no Leonore No. 3 overture to divert our attention after Florestan’s liberation, and a Leonore who is already among the most admired dramatic sopranos of her generation. What’s missing?

Victims of a Covid cancellation, Marek Janowski, his cast and the Dresden Philharmonic abandoned the theatre for the city’s Kulturpalast for this recording – and you sometimes feel that they left the drama at the stage door. Lise Davidsen’s Leonore delivers her short phrase ‘Er ist es’ (It is him) as if she had recognised an old friend across a crowded tearoom rather finding her long imprisoned husband. She is invariably and excitingly ‘inside’ the music, but sometimes seems to stand outside the meaning of the words. Yet Christian Elsner as her Florestan lives every line of ‘Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!’, and handles the impossible tessitura magnificently.

Elsewhere, the singing is dependable rather than inspired with Christina Landshamer a rather soubrettish Marzelline. Georg Zeppenfeld offers no surprises as Rocco, and Johannes Martin Kränzle’s Pizarro, the villain of the piece, steers clear of twirling his vocal moustaches. But it’s the orchestra which catches attention, with Janowski coaxing heartfelt playing from the strings and above all the horns, who somehow come to signify all that is most hopeful in this great work.


Christopher Cook