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Beethoven: Fidelio / Ludwig, Cassilly, Silja

Beethoven / Ludwig / Sotin / Adam / Cassilly
Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101275  
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Hans SotinTheo AdamAnja SiljaRichard Cassilly,   ... 
Conductor:  Leopold Ludwig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg State Opera ChorusHamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Fidelio Leopold Ludwig, cond; Anja Silja ( Leonore ); Richard Cassilly ( Florestan ); Hans Sotin ( Don Fernando ); Theo Adam ( Don Pizarro ); Ernst Wiemann ( Rocco ); Lucia Popp ( Marzelline ); Hamburg St Op Ch; Hamburg St PO
Read more ARTHAUS 101 275, mono (DVD: 115:00) Broadcast: Hamburg 1968

I just saw a Regietheater production of Fidelio less than a month ago in Budapest, where the plot, character backgrounds, and historical setting were completely altered. Roman legionnaires and Kalashnikov-wielding men in sunglasses and modern suits milled around the stage simultaneously. So did brightly dressed teenaged girls, conversing, chewing gum and blowing bubbles, and rolling baby carriages. Florestan stalked about silently in act I, occasionally wearing a crown of thorns or sporting a blinking neon rose-and-heart. Pizarro heralded Jacquino as his successor. After all that, it’s refreshing to return to a traditional production of the opera such as this one. It possesses the singular virtue these days of actually caring about what Beethoven and his librettist wrote.

This performance was one of a group of 13 works that the Hamburg Opera’s dynamic general manager, Rolf Liebermann, chose to produce for television. While variable in quality, the singing was generally very fine and the acting good. So it turns out, here. Anja Silja offers a Leonore that is well if not always impressively sung, and brilliantly characterized. Cassilly’s Florestan is the inverse of it: excellently sung, but generalized in its acting. The Pizarro of Theo Adam is a vicious obsessive, without a spark of triumph in his countenance or powerful voice during “Ha, welch ein Augenblick!” Hans Sotin is a smoothly humane Don Fernando, but I think the best performances here are those of the production’s Marzelline and Rocco. Lucia Popp’s flexible, light timbre and warmth are fully in evidence, while Ernst Wiemann’s expressive features and sonorous bass reflect the ever-shifting dilemmas he faces. (The loss of his “Hat man nicht auch Gold” aria hardly matters under the circumstances, given how much he makes of so much else.) The Hamburg Philharmonic under Leopold Ludwig gives a good account of itself, without any of the rushing noticeable in some recent recordings.

The dank, suggestive sets are a strong plus, as is the fluid but natural camerawork. A lack of character movement in most set pieces and recitatives only emphasizes the static nature of Beethoven’s libretto, especially in the early scenes; but the trip down several flights of dark, stone stairs to Florestan’s dungeon cleverly suggests his living entombment. Nor is the moment when Silja reveals her identity as she takes off her cap, allowing her voluminous red hair to cascade over her shoulders, without its effect. I also like the way the libretto for the first performance is displayed while the overture plays, followed by a similar visual mockup with the current cast—though it’s not in fact the original three-act version shown in that libretto we actually hear, but the standard one from 1814 in two acts.

While we are warned at the start that the film is archival and shows some deterioration, nothing gave evidence of this. The image is good analog, with a 4:3 viewing ratio, and no obvious color changes. Sound is mono but clear, and the lip-syncing singers match up in most instances to the soundtrack they recorded separately. Subtitles are offered in German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

No apologies need be made for the age or visual limitations of this made-for-TV film. It gives us a good, solid Fidelio with some standout performances, and is well worth the purchase.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Florestan - Richard Cassilly
Leonore - Anja Silja
Rocco - Ernst Wiemann
Marzelline - Lucia Popp
Jaquino - Erwin Wohlfahrt
Don Pizarro - Theo Adam
Don Fernando - Hans Sotin

Picture format: NTSC 4:3 (Colour)
Sound format: Mono
Region code: 0 (all)
Menu Languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitle Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 115 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

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Works on This Recording

Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Hans Sotin (Bass), Theo Adam (Bass), Anja Silja (Soprano),
Richard Cassilly (Tenor), Lucia Popp (Soprano), Ernst Wiemann (Bass),
Erwin Wohlfahrt (Tenor)
Conductor:  Leopold Ludwig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg State Opera Chorus,  Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1968 

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