Keara Clemons | 08/29/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Quite frankly, this is one of the worst "good" opera sets I have come across. This set had the potential to be a good set but the engineers ruined everything. The musical side of things is not so bad. Jon Vicker's Florestan is magnificent, few if any, better. The problem lies with Leonore. Helga Dernesch is unable to handle the role. The high notes tax her mercilessly and she does not have the vocal heft to cut through the orchestra in the dungeon quartet scene. This is where the problem comes in. Because she does not have the vocal power to cut through the orchestra, it is very obvious that the engineers recorded her voice separately and superimpose it on top. This results in a very weird sound. It is very very obvious that Jon Vickers, the orchestra and Pizzaro are in one room and Helga Dernesch is singing in a different room with a completely different acoustic. The sound is especially evident and horrible if you listen using earphones. Which is sad because Karajan's conducting is not bad and Helga Dernesch, even though the top notes tax her too much, sounds pretty OK. I like Karajan's "live" 1962 Trovatore, "live" 1964 Die Frau but sorry, this set is lousy. Before you buy this set, make sure you buy the magnificent Klemperer set, which is at the top of the list. If you need a second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth version, go for Kleiber with Birgit Nilsson, Haitink with Jessye Norman or Halasz on Maxos with Nielsen or Fricsay with Leonie Rysanek or Maazel with Birgit Nilsson. If you need a seventh or eighth version, go for Bernstein with the lovely Janowitz or Solti with Hildegard Behrens. If you need a ninth or tenth version, go for Furtwangler with Kirsten Flagstad (mono) or Bernstein with Birgit Nilsson (Mono). If you need an eleventh version go for Bohm with Christa Ludwig (1968 Salzburg) or Bohm with Gwyneth Jones. Quite frankly, this Fidelio comes right at the bottom of my list - all because of the engineers. If you are a Karajan fan and want to sample his magnificent opera conducting, go for his earlier "live" sets like his 1962 Trovatore, his 1964 "live" Die Frau, his 1956 EMI Rosenkavalier, his 1956 EMI Falstaff - those were great classics. This set is a huge disappointment. I got a brand new set for just nine dollars, by the way."
Keara Clemons | Hermon, Maine | 05/11/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recently borrowed the Klemperer/Ludwig version (which so many Amazon reviewers rate so highly) of "Fidelio" from a local library. As I was listening along, I wondered if I'd like this opera at all. I'd seen a video of "Fidelio" several years ago, (I don't remember who conducted it) and remember liking it. But listening to Klemperer's, I was no longer sure. Klemperer, for whom I often have respect, conducted the Overture like it was a Big Band tune. When the singers came in, the orchestra was drowned out, with the voices dominating. Christa Ludwig, whom I usually enjoy for her mellow richness, sounded shrill in this role. The sound quality was also rather flat, with a constant tape hiss. I frankly expected that recording to be much better.
Deciding to compare versions just to make sure it wasn't the opera itself, I downloaded "Mir ist so wunderbar," of this Karajan/Dernesch version. I sat listening, closed my eyes and shook my head. Now THAT is how an opera should be played, I said to myself. Got to give it Karajan for knowing how to pull off richness and intensity in an opera that could otherwise be too light and repetitive. The orchestra began clear and rich, building intensity until the sopranos came in, softly and gently, then clearly and beautifully. I was hooked. I downloaded the whole thing, and wasn't disappointed. The sound quality is flawless. The conducting is beautiful, never making it sound like a "night at the pops," or a Mozart minuet, but rather a full dramatic opera composed by the great Beethoven. Each of the singers is perfect for their roles as well, as far as I'm concerned.
There is the trouble another reviewer mentioned, of the distant quality of Dernesch's voice in one or two of the tracks of the dungeon sequence in the second act. It sounds like her voice is echoing from an adjacent room, instead of right by Vickers's side as she's supposed to be in the scene. But that's the only fault with this otherwise marvelous recording, and I wouldn't give this any fewer stars for it.