ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
PERFORMER: Adriane Pieczonka, Jonas Kaufmann, Hans-Peter König, Tomasz Konieczny; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic/Franz Welser-Möst; dir. Claus Guth (Salzburg, 2015)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 88875193519; Blu-ray: 88875193529
This is a great musical performance of Beethoven’s sublime opera, hitched to a production which sets new standards, if that is possible, of irrelevance, impertinence and directorial conceit. My advice for Fidelio-lovers is to watch it once, then to listen to it often. The conducting of Franz Welser-Möst is on the highest level, a traditional account which even, unfashionably, has a performance of the overture Leonore No. 3 between the dungeon scene and the final scene. Jonas Kaufmann is a magnificent Florestan, apart from an affectedly extended first note, and Adrianne Pieczonka a heroic Fidelio, who can manage all the role’s appalling demands. There isn’t a weak link in the cast – this is the finest new Fidelio I have heard for years.
Claus Guth’s production takes place in a palace room, a glittering chandelier appearing in the last scene. A large black wall moves around from time to time. The protagonists are doubled by mimes gesticulating frantically. All the spoken dialogue, even in the dungeon scene, is replaced with weird and often highly unpleasant electronic sounds. Florestan drops dead in the final moments of the opera, with rejoicings at their height.