Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ludwig van Beethoven
Leonore – Waltraud Meier
Florestan – Peter Seiffert
Rocco – Matti Salminen
Marzelline – Ildikó Raimondi
Jaquino – Rainer Trost
Don Pizarro – Juha Uusitalo
Don Fernando – Carsten Stabell
Valencia Regional Government Choir (Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana)
Valencian Community Orchestra (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana)
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Pierluigi Pier'Alli, stage director
Recorded live from the Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia", Valencia, Spain on October 2006.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 148 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
This video of Beethoven's Fidelio was taped over four nights at the end of October, 2006 at the then year-old Palau de las Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain. The production inaugurated the opera house's first official season, and a cast of international opera stars was called upon to take part under Zubin Mehta's leadership in an evocative production by Pierluigi Pier'Alli.
Set in a dreary prison-camp-type atmosphere at any period between Beethoven's and the 20th century, with high, gray walls and an airless ambiance, Pier'Alli's production stresses the mundanity and pervasiveness of evil: chains and spikes hang from the walls, and a closer look reveals that Marzelline's ironing board is a torturer's rack. Costumes are dreary. Marzelline is not only indifferent to Jaquino, she seems to openly dislike him; Rocco's moral ambiguity leans away from the benign (his "Gold" aria seems brutal in some way); the soldiers are cutely dressed martinets unaware of their own evil; the prisoners exhibit no individual traits (they are dressed in dark clothing and hats, their faces barely discernible); Pizarro is the soul of icy authority and moves very little. The dungeon is narrow, with walls claustrophobically reaching to the top of the stage. There are both still and moving projections on the rear wall but they aren't very clear to the video viewer. Chorus members hold hands during the finale while the projections transmogrify, but it comes across as poorly lit and blurry.
Peter Seiffert's Florestan is worthy of the highest praise. His opening "Gott!" displays somewhat of a wobble, but his singing of the difficult recit and aria is thereafter masterly, with every note in the right place and the text enunciated with great drama. His near-hysteria when he asks Rocco to contact Leonora is on a par with Vickers', and the joy he expresses in "Namenlöse Freude" is cathartic. A wonderful performance.
Dramatically, Waltraud Meier matches him. Looking slightly too beautiful for the character, she puts not a movement wrong, and her energy never flags.
Juha Uusitalo's Pizarro may have been hampered by the way he was directed--standing stock still early on and actually covering his face with his cape in the dungeon scene à la Count Dracula; but he sings with potency and impressive tone. Matti Salminen's familiar Rocco, as mentioned above, is coarser than usual, but he still has the vocal goods. Ildiko Raimondi's Marzelline is well sung and truly petulant, while Rainer Trost's survival in the role of Jaquino wearing the country-bumpkin wig he's been given deserves an award. Carsten Stabell is a dignified Don Fernando. At the finale, by the way, you realize that Salminen, Seiffert, Uusitalo, and Stabell are a foot or two taller than anyone else on stage. There's something very Fasolt-and-Fafner about the effect.
The Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana, which I assume is a new group, plays very well for conductor Zubin Mehta, with bright brass, uniformly appealing strings, and fine woodwinds. Mehta's tempos are peculiarly slow, and his overall approach lacks the Klemperian tautness needed to carry off such lengths: the opera's early, Singspiel moments have no snap at all and the opening to Act 2 and Florestan's aria are stretched to a dead-feeling 12 minutes. He includes the Leonore Overture No. 3 before the finale as well--always a good way to break the opera's tension. The chorus sings handsomely and accurately, but with bizarrely accented German.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Matti Salminen (Bass),
Carsten Stabell (Bass),
Peter Seiffert (Tenor),
Ildikó Raimondi (Soprano),
Waltraud Meier (Mezzo Soprano),
Rainer Trost (Tenor),
Juha Uusitalo (Baritone)
Valencia Community Orchestra,
Valencia Regional Government Choir
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 10/2006
Venue: Palau de les Arts, Valencia, Spain
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