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Fidelio
Ludwig van Beethoven, Colin Davis, Bavarian Radio Chorus
Fidelio
Genre: Classical
 
This is a terrific performance of a supreme if problematic masterpiece. Basically a "rescue" opera, it tries to combine the light style of the Singspiel, complete with spoken dialogue, with the lofty moral tone of heroic d...  more »

     
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This is a terrific performance of a supreme if problematic masterpiece. Basically a "rescue" opera, it tries to combine the light style of the Singspiel, complete with spoken dialogue, with the lofty moral tone of heroic drama; moreover, Beethoven, notorious for taxing instruments and players to the utmost, was even more oblivious to the limitations of the human voice: some passages in Fidelio are virtually unsingable. All these admittedly justifiable criticisms are swept away by the grandeur, power, melting lyricism, and sheer incomparable beauty of the music: encompassing every emotion from the height of ecstasy to the depth of despair, it stops the breath, chills the blood, and breaks the heart. This recording opens with the Fidelio Overture and adds Leonore No. 2 at the end; cast, chorus and orchestra are first rate, balance and pacing exemplary. Voigt and Heppner are spectacular, easily surmounting all technical difficulties, their voices soar with thrilling power and intoxicating radiance. This Leonore and Florestan are truly heroic; indeed Heppner sounds almost too healthy for the role. --Edith Eisler

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CD Reviews

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.

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