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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Beethoven's Fidelio is probably not a great 'opera' in the strict sense of the word but it is a great masterpiece with some of the greatest music he ever wrote. I am always moved to tears by it. It is perfect for recording and there are many great recordings out there. What are your favourites? Recommendations? Please give lists and include DVDs. I know we've done this before but and update is always fun.
 

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CD: Karajan, Klemperer both EMI

DVD: Bernstein, DG
 

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Beethoven's Fidelio is probably not a great 'opera' in the strict sense of the word
And in another sense it is so much more than an opera. It is music's supreme expression of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppression and tyranny. It's always been one of my favorite operas, or musico-dramatic works of art period, and is an incredibly inspiring.

If I had to list a personal top 3 among recordings, they would be:

1. Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra with Christa Ludwig and Jon Vickers
2. Karl Böhm and the Staatskapelle Dresden with Gwyneth Jones and James King
3. Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Charlotte Margiono and Peter Seiffert
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I learned Fidelio from the old version with Friscay. It certainly has a lot going for it with lean orchestral sound and swift tempi - almost like an HIP performance. It was unfavourably compared with Klemperer but is far more forceful and dramatic. It has a fine Leonore in Rysanek and a real blood-curdling villain in D F-D, a superb performance. Frick as Rocco and Seefried as Marcelline are also excellent. Haeflinger might be considered too light for Florestan but then this guy has been starving in a jail and the singer certainly gives that impression. The recording is too much in favour of the voices, sadly. The dialogue is cut but none the worse for that unless you are a German speaker. I have just managed to get this second hand and look forward to catching up on an old favourite that introduced me to this particular aspect of Beethoven's genius.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The second recording of Fidelio I bought was the Klemperer. This is the recording that critics raved about but I must confess I have always been a bit disappointed by the lack of drama in the recording. If you like Fidelio as an oratorio this might be more your line. What does redeem it is the tremendous pairing of Ludwig and Vickers which is incomparable. Frick if great again as Rocco but Berry is a disappointment as Pizarro - there is little menace here, well as he sings - just compare his performance live with karajan to see the difference.

Interesting that Klemperer had conducted the work at Covent Garden and I have this live radio recording. the recording itself is wretched but the performance certainly has more drama than in the studio. Vickers is again the incomparable prisoner but partnered by Jurinac. I don't think she is as good as Ludwig but others think differently. What does elevate this performance is the incredible evil Pizarro of Hans Hotter - why on earth Legge did not employ him in the studio is beyond me. So on performance this is the Klemperer to have but in very limited sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
There are a couple of versions by Karajan. The best is his studio recording made with the BPO in gorgeous sound and with Denersch and Vickers as husband and wife. They really are superb. This version has the best young people, a good Rocco and Keleman's effective baritone Pizarro. Karajan brings out the orchestral drama of the score superbly and I'd certainly put this version as my favourite.

Karajan also has a live performance with Ludwig and Vickers, although the latter's presence is disputed by some. It certainly sounds like Vickers but on a less good night. Berry is really tremendous as Pizarro, far more dramatic than with Klemperer. The sound is limited and Karajan whips the whole thing along in what must have been a thrilling ride in the theatre but does not bare too much repeated listening.
 

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I dislike conductors that drag the music in Fidelio. "Lack of drama" is right. This isn't Bruckner & therefore the music shouldn't sound like post-romanticism, should it? For example, by the time of his DG recording, Karl Bohm had slowed down in Fidelio (& almost everything else, except possibly Wagner), yet his earlier 1955 Fidelio is surprisingly dynamic & vital, which shows that at one point Bohm was a very good opera conductor. Karajan & Klemperer are too slow for me, as well. Granted, you may find great singers on these recordings, but if the music isn't lithe & nimble enough, it tends to ruin the whole opera as far as I'm concerned.

Therefore, my favorite recordings of Fidelio are (1) a very underrated one, in my opinion, from Kurt Masur & the Rundfunkchor and Gewandhaus orchestra of Leipzig, originally released by Eurodisc in the 1980s--an early digital recording (now reissued by Sony at a super bargain price--$6-7), and (2) among older recordings, Ferenc Fricsay's DG recording with the Bavarian State Opera Choir & Orchestra. Bernstein can be dynamic too.

Among current conductors that I think are sometimes excellent in Beethoven, I see Bernard Haitink has recorded Fidelio with the Staatskapelle Dresden (for Phillips)--though surprisingly, I don't know that recording, and I'd definitely pay to see John Nelson conduct the opera. (If I'm not mistaken, didn't Nelson conduct a live production of Leonore that received glowing reviews?; plus, his Beethoven 8th is one of the best I've heard.) Similarly, it would be interesting to hear one of the original instrument conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner or Jos van Immerseel conduct this music & potentially blow the cobwebs away--especially Immerseel, whose Beethoven 7th--with its authentic valveless horns--is one of the most wonderful recordings of that symphony I've heard (though the rest of Immerseel's set wasn't always to my liking).

https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Fi...&qid=1511907552&sr=1-2&keywords=fidelio+masur
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I dislike conductors that drag the music in Fidelio. "Lack of drama" is right. This isn't Bruckner & therefore the music shouldn't sound like post-romanticism, should it? For example, by the time of his DG recording, Karl Bohm had slowed down in Fidelio (& almost everything else, except possibly Wagner), yet his earlier 1955 Fidelio is surprisingly dynamic & vital, which shows that at one point Bohm was a very good opera conductor. Karajan & Klemperer are too slow for me, as well. Granted, you may find great singers on these recordings, but if the music isn't lithe & nimble enough, it tends to ruin the whole opera as far as I'm concerned.

Therefore, my favorite recordings of Fidelio are (1) a very underrated one, in my opinion, from Kurt Masur & the Rundfunkchor and Gewandhaus orchestra of Leipzig, originally released by Eurodisc in the 1980s--an early digital recording (now reissued by Sony at a super bargain price--$6-7), and (2) among older recordings, Ferenc Fricsay's DG recording with the Bavarian State Opera Choir & Orchestra. Bernstein can be dynamic too.

Among current conductors that I think are sometimes excellent in Beethoven, I see Bernard Haitink has recorded Fidelio with the Staatskapelle Dresden (for Phillips), though surprisingly, I don't know that recording, and I'd definitely pay to see John Nelson conduct the opera. (If I'm not mistaken, didn't Nelson conduct a live production of Leonore that received glowing reviews?; plus, his Beethoven 8th is one of the best I've heard.) Similarly, it would be interesting to hear one of the original instrument conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner or Jos van Immerseel conduct this music & potentially blow the cobwebs away--especially Immerseel, whose Beethoven 7th--with its authentic valveless horns (whose sounds Beethoven would have recognized)--is one of the most wonderful recordings of that symphony I've heard (though the rest of Immerseel's set wasn't always to my liking).

https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Fi...&qid=1511907552&sr=1-2&keywords=fidelio+masur
Bernstein in place sis slower than Karajan or Klemperer
 

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"Bernstein in places is slower than Karajan or Klemperer"

Yes, I listened to Bernstein's Fidelio tonight (as it had been awhile) & you're right. I had forgotten that his Fidelio can exhibit some of the bad characteristics of Bernstein's later Vienna years--one minute he is intense and full of conviction, only to then allow the drama to become dissipated by adopting very slow tempos. Oh well, I had mentioned Bernstein more as an afterthought--my top two picks were Masur & Fricsay. Thanks for pointing that out though.
 

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For the Beethoven Birthday there is a 50% sale in OperaDepot.

1. Which recordings do you reccomend from there?

2. Do you know about historical (mono) Fidelo recordings from other labels like Orfeo, Andromeda, MYTO or Walhall?
 

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For the Beethoven Birthday there is a 50% sale in OperaDepot.

1. Which recordings do you reccomend from there?

2. Do you know about historical (mono) Fidelo recordings from other labels like Orfeo, Andromeda, MYTO or Walhall?
Frankly, I have not been that excited about opera depot and every set I have gotten from them, either purchased or free download, sits on my hard drive, rarely listened to. Sound quality often is the issue.
 

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The second recording of Fidelio I bought was the Klemperer. This is the recording that critics raved about but I must confess I have always been a bit disappointed by the lack of drama in the recording. If you like Fidelio as an oratorio this might be more your line. What does redeem it is the tremendous pairing of Ludwig and Vickers which is incomparable. Frick if great again as Rocco but Berry is a disappointment as Pizarro - there is little menace here, well as he sings - just compare his performance live with karajan to see the difference.

Interesting that Klemperer had conducted the work at Covent Garden and I have this live radio recording. the recording itself is wretched but the performance certainly has more drama than in the studio. Vickers is again the incomparable prisoner but partnered by Jurinac. I don't think she is as good as Ludwig but others think differently. What does elevate this performance is the incredible evil Pizarro of Hans Hotter - why on earth Legge did not employ him in the studio is beyond me. So on performance this is the Klemperer to have but in very limited sound.
I hate Klemperer. His was the first Fidelio I purchased because it was so lauded by the critics. Therefore, my initial impression was Fidelio was a dreadful bore. I agree, Klemperer had little insight into the drama of the piece. I now have probably 10 Fidelios and Klemperer's ranks last of the lot. Somehow, I still made the mistake of buying Klemperer's Zauberflote, which had the same result. Klemperer, I know avoid.
 

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Frankly, I have not been that excited about opera depot and every set I have gotten from them, either purchased or free download, sits on my hard drive, rarely listened to. Sound quality often is the issue.
I've gotten some great things there, including the '76 and '77 Boulez Ring's from Bayreuth. The '77 sounds better than the commercial release, and the performance is massively better than the commercial release.
 
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