Great Fidelio in the Romantic tradition
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 10/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Source: Live 1950 performance at Salzburg. This famous performance has circulated for years in pirated form. Here it appears in respectable publication--or at least as respectable as Od'O gets.
Sound: OK for its time and place. For you delicate souls who must hear DDD clarity or suffer the vapors, walk away right now. This is not for you. For those of you interested in art, be warned that Flagstad's voice simply overwhelms the capacity of the recording system from time to time. Accept that and move on.
Documentation: Not up to Od'O abysmal standards. No libretto. Nothing on cast members, conductor, orchestra or circumstances of the recording. Track list omits timings and fails even to identify the singers. Disc 2, track 11, as shown above in the Amazon track listing, appears as "Entr'acte." So it is, and then some, for in accordance with the practice of the day, Furtwaengler gives a barn burning performance of the Leonore Overture No. 3.
This is Furtwaengler's Fidelio, which is to say that it is a great Fidelio. This is the ultimate Romantic take on the opera, utterly at variance with the dry and spare style of performance that is now, alas, fashionable. Listen here to one of the greatest of the great conductors in full command of every nuance of the score.
Three members of the cast are certainly as good as any who ever recorded Fidelio, and possibly better. Flagstad is her incomparable self. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Anton Dermota are simply unbeatable as Marzelline and Jaquino, the secondary soprano and tenor.
The other three main principals are more problematic. Julius Patzak is Florestan, the much-abused hero who does not appear until Act II. Patzak was a renowned lieder singer whose operatic career began with Tamino and Don Ottavio, soared to Rudolfo and Turiddu, triumphed in the operettas of Strauss and Lehar, and finished with Herod. His performance is intelligent, skillful and well thought-out. The only problem with Patzak in Fidelio is simply that he does not have enough voice. Florestan is not a man, he is Beethoven's symbol of suffering humanity. In the final scene of Act II, when Florestan sings the praises of Leonore before all the massed voices--"Retterin, Retterin des Gatten sein"--Patzak can't bring it off. He sounds more like Woody Allan than humanity liberated.
Paul Schoeffler, like all the rest of this cast, was a stalwart of the Vienna State Opera. I saw him do a terrific Hans Sachs in San Francisco during the sixties. A natural-born Don Alfonso for "Cosi fan tutte," he lacks the bite for that heart of darkness which is Don Pizarro. Josef Greindl, on the other hand, was opera's resident cave man. His huge, dark, mean-sounding voice is utterly at variance with the weak but vaguely benevolent Papa Rocco. When Schoeffler and Greindl sing together, as they often do, it sounds as though they have mixed up their parts.
The Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the chorus must have been magnificent in the pit and on the stage. The recording suggests this, but doesn't do them full service.
Five stars for Furtwaengler, Flagstad, Schwarzkopf and Dermota."
William S. Levison | Valdosta, GA United States | 03/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 1950 Salzburg performance has been around for decades, but this is the cleanest recording I've heard. The performance is stunning. Flagstad was entering the final phase of her career, but the voice is magnificent: warm and wonderfully powerful. The rest of the cast is absolutely first rate, with Schwarzkopf an unmatchable Marzellina. Furtwangler is at his legendary finest. Nothing but a plot summary accompanies the discs, not even the fact that one of the Lenore overtures is used to bridge the two scenes of Act II. Nevertheless, this would be a bargain at three times the price."
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 11/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fidelio represented for the most of conductors but specially for Wilhelm Furtwangler, the reaffirmation of the mean values of the humankind , a call to decency in total synchronization with the imperative principles of the Enlightenment, the heroic struggle and mercurial fierceness that nestles under the untamed spirit of the human being. Of course this was an obvious statement in those oppressive years, signed by the opprobrium of the Russian iron's fist as well as the Nazi regime Conductors like Toscanini and Bruno Walter flagged this work in Salzburg and New York respectively as the triumph of the man's will against any other kind of Totalitarian Regime.
This memorable and historical version has several elements that make it absolutely a must-have; the cast, Orchestra, Director and historical moment in which it was performed.
Since I got in LP format twenty years ago until its fortunate release on CD format, this is one of those absolutely necessary recordings to listen and enjoy over and over, because it conjugates grandness and noblesse.