Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recorded the afternoon of February 13, 1960, this is a hectic but very exciting Fidelio. Karl Böhm knows what he wants and almost invariably gets it. You can only marvel at how he manages to be fleet and deadly serious at the same time. The Met Orchestra's brass bobbles occasionally--they always did in those days--and at the start of the Prisoners' Scene the prisoners sound insufficiently rehearsed. Otherwise, as in the "Er sterbe" scene, which is held together as if singing at Mach 3 speed were the most natural thing in the world, with our soprano popping out high A's in tune and in time and everyone else totally on the beat, not to mention a performance of the Leonore Overture No. 3 that is roller-coasterish in its
excitement level but formidably disciplined, this is a precise, enthralling reading.
There are weaknesses in the singing, however, though none is disastrous. Hermann Uhde's Pizarro never barks--he sings all the notes--but he lacks a big tone and the audible sneer one needs in the part. Oskar Czerwenka's Rocco just sounds like a dumb galoot, but he causes no harm, and Giorgio Tozzi's Fernando is wooly and dullish.
But Jon Vickers, though not in his absolutely best voice--there's a graininess throughout and the top lacks some freedom--is still the Florestan of the ages: tragically forlorn, hopeful as if seeing a vision of the grail, insane with need, wild with enthusiasm. It's as if he's in the room; he's almost visible. Birgit Nilsson's singing is perfect. She never was the ideal Leonore because vulnerability wasn't really her thing; but her part in "Mir ist..." is lovely and she shows real tenderness in the melodrama in Act 2. The high notes are staggering, though she sings the big note in "Abscheulischer" as a disconnected whopper--very Wagnerian-style--rather than as the culmination of the line. Still, no complaints. Laurel Hurley and Charles Anthony make a sweet, sincere, and in fact vivid pair of youngsters.
First choice remains Klemperer, but this one for Böhm's leadership and maniacal intensity is a good gamble. The sound is hard-edged but more than acceptable.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Oskar Czerwenka (Bass),
Birgit Nilsson (Soprano),
Jon Vickers (Tenor),
Hermann Uhde (Bass)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: January 13, 1960
Venue: Metropolitan Opera, New York
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