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Beethoven: Fidelio / Jones, King, Böhm

Beethoven / Jones / Miljakovic / King / Dre / Bohm
Release Date: 08/12/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001148309  
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Olivera MiljakovicJosef GreindlGustav NeidlingerDame Gwyneth Jones,   ... 
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper ChorusBerlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Fidelio Karl Böhm, cond; Gwyneth Jones ( Leonore ); James King ( Florestan ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Don Pizarro ); Martti Talvela (Don Fernando); Josef Greindl ( Rocco ); Olivera Miljakovic ( Marzelline ); Donald Grobe ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Jaquino ); Deutsche Op O & Ch Berlin DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 001148309 (DVD: 112:00)

This production originates from the Deutsche Oper Berlin and was initially staged in 1962 by Gustav Rudolf Sellner, then redirected for television in 1970 by Ernst Wild. A Unitel production, it premiered on German television on the evening of the 200th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

In terms of acting and filming, it is absorbing and mostly convincing. All these singers show a genuine dramatic investment in their characters, and any grand opera gestures have been scaled back for television with much subtle detail introduced. Just as well, considering Wild uses many extreme close-ups, not only on faces but even on props, such as the bag of gold coins with which Don Pizarro bribes the jailer Rocco to murder the prisoner Florestan. (This example is perhaps one of the less subtle.) Cross fading is used skillfully to clarify the characters’ contrasting hopes and agendas in the act I quartet. Under such close scrutiny the occasional mismatch of voice and lips is inevitable. Also, some singers seem to use lip-synching deliberately to make a big note look effortless when it sounds quite the opposite.

Wild’s probing camera serves to make this Fidelio an intimate story about specific individuals. Beethoven and his librettist’s universal humanitarian theme literally takes a back seat. The product is very user-friendly, however, giving a neat synopsis of the action (with stills) during the overture. Dialogue is minimal and functional, while spoken internal monologues are effectively presented as voice-overs.

Musical standards are high. Böhm conducted Fidelio many times, generally taking a brisk view—especially if you were brought up on Klemperer. We see a portion of his clear, no-nonsense conducting during the Fidelio Overture. (The Leonora Overture No. 3 is not included in this set.) In 1969 he recorded the opera with these same two leads in Dresden; that recording has reappeared on a DG budget label and is additionally recommended for Edith Mathis, who is preferable to Miljakovic on the DVD.

Dame Gwyneth Jones was, in my opinion, one of the 20th century’s great dramatic sopranos. Her reputation suffered because her prime proved to be distressingly short: mid 1960s through early 1970s. Some of the recordings she made during that time are remarkably beautiful—I’m thinking particularly of her Desdemona in Barbirolli’s Otello and her singing of Luonnotar by Sibelius (a “Great Recording” that seems to have slipped through EMI’s net). She is in top form here, plus we get to watch her dramatic intensity and much admired stamina at work. Tenor James King is comparatively plain as an actor but pours out the golden tone; his is a type of voice much less common now than 40 years ago.

Sound is clean and seems quite vivid, even through my ordinary flat-screen television’s two speakers. The DVD comes with the option of DTS 5.1 surround sound, if you are set up for the full home theater experience. Even if that is the case, please don’t neglect live theater! In fact, this production has virtually none of the magic of the theater about it, although there is much else to enjoy. It is especially recommendable as a way in for anyone who does not know this great work. (Do such people exist?)

FANFARE: Phillip Scott    
Staged by Gustav Rudolf Sellner
Video Director: Ernst Wild

DVD-VIDEO NTSC 073 4438 |G|H|
Picture Format: 4:3
Subtitles: German/English/French/Spanish/Chinese
A production of UNITEL, Munich

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Works on This Recording

Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Olivera Miljakovic (Soprano), Josef Greindl (Bass), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone),
Dame Gwyneth Jones (Soprano), James King (Tenor), Donald Grobe (Tenor),
Martti Talvela (Bass)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1969 

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