Three strikes for Fidelio
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/24/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Just before the major record companies jumped ship on opera recordings, three digital Fidelios were issued: this one from RCA, another under Dohnanyi on Decca, and a version with Jesseye Norman under Haitink on Philips. Each turned out to be a frustrating disappointment.
The Dohnanyi set had an overparted Leonore and boring conducting. Jesseye Norman was paired with a puny Florestan and suffered from Haitink's listless pacing. This set is probably the best of the three, because Heppner is truly great as Florestan, the best tenor in the role since Jon Vickers, who crowns both the classic Klemperer set and the almost-as-good Karajan, both on EMI. If only he could be spliced into Norman's commanding (if diva-scented) performance as Leonore.
Sadly, Colin Davis, who went through a long stretch of dull conducting in Bavaria, is fairly listless himself on this occasion. The bigger problem for me is Voigt, who doesn't have a Leonore voice. She has gleaming top notes but a gargly, weak lower register--and Leonore must sing a lot in that register. She also has a generic conception of the role dramatically, with no special fire or inner urgency.
All in all, this is the best Fidelio since the great ones came out decades ago, but except for Heppner, no one involved rivals the classic sets.