Notes and Editorial Reviews
BEETHOVEN Fidelio • Herbert von Karajan, cond; Nicola Zaccaria (Leonore); Paul Schöffler (Don Pizarro); Giuseppe Zampieri (Florestan); Otto Edelmann (Rocco); Sena Jurinac ( Marzelline); Waldemar Kmentt (Jaquino); Vienna St Op O; Vienna P • ORFEO 771 082, mono (2 CDs: 123:44) Live: Vienna 7/27/1957
"Never having heard Karajan’s EMI recording of Fidelio (1970), I cannot say how it compares to this live one of 13 years earlier. But having read unfavorable reviews of that later one, I doubt if they are similar. Put differently, this is a compelling production, laudable in several ways. The sound is better than that of many live Orfeo productions I have heard: wide in frequency response, sufficiently well balanced so
that characters never seem to move too much off of the microphone, and encompassing a dynamic range, its only lack is the dimension that stereo can provide. It is the fifth live account of the opera in my collection. The others include two led by Bruno Walter at the Met (1941and 1951, both with Flagstad in a three-CD West Hill set sold only outside the U.S.), two led by Furtwängler at Salzburg (with Flagstad, 1950 and Martha Mödl in 1953, the latter on a now hard-to-find Virtuoso set, 2697272, where at one point the orchestra falls apart in the Leonore No. 3), and the fine 1961 Covent Garden production led by Klemperer, with Sena Jurinac in the title role, a kind of graduation from her many phonographic appearances as Marzelline.
This 1957 performance marked Karajan’s first summer at Salzburg and is unlike any of the others just cited, less shapeless and better disciplined that either of Walter’s, more propulsive, yet with a wider range of tempos than Klemperer’s or either of those led by Furtwängler. It also features one oddity I’ve never previously encountered: in what (presumably) may have been an attempt to avoid applause at the end of the rousing Leonore No. 3, Karajan launches immediately into the courtyard finale by cutting its opening chords and choral “Heils.” On first hearing, it comes as a shock, but it makes dramatic sense. So does the entire performance. The comparative lightness of the first act never drags, Nicola Zaccaria’s projection of Leonore’s “Abscheulicher” and “Komm, Hoffnung” aptly fierce and tender, the Prisoners’ Chorus a poignant blend of tenderness and assertion. Florestan’s act II opener, “In des Lebens Frülingstage,” may be a bit too sweet-toned for one in a dungeon, but is nonetheless superbly sung. Ironically, the kind of dreary dankness suggested in some studio recordings through the use of echo is absent here, but the scene is still compelling. And the other singers are all more than adequate. Most of all, one hears this performance not as a recording, but as a dramatic theatrical experience. Even those who own some of the other live accounts cited here (Klemperer’s is especially distinguished) would do well to investigate this one. Orfeo provides a plot summary but no libretto."
FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
Works on This Recording
Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Otto Edelmann (Bass),
Waldemar Kmentt (Tenor),
Nicola Zaccaria (Bass),
Erich Majkut (Tenor),
Sena Jurinac (Soprano),
Giuseppe Zampieri (Tenor),
Paul Schöffler (Baritone),
Walter Berry (Bass Baritone)
Herbert von Karajan
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria
Notes: Composition written: Vienna, Austria (1804).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1806).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1814).
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