Herbert von Karajan / Vienna State Opera

Beethoven: Fidelio

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Since 1955, Austrian Radio has been recording important performances at the Vienna State Opera, and this all-star recording of Fidelio dates from 1962. Herbert von Karajan leads a dynamic, vigorous reading of the score that highlights its theatrical urgency, and the chorus and orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper perform with focused intensity and brilliant sound. The second act, in particular, is charged with driving energy, and the finale is beautifully cathartic. The recording includes a radiant performance of the Leonore Overture No. 3, at the scene change in Act II, where it's frequently interpolated. The cast includes singers who were legendary in these roles: Christa Ludwig as Leonore, Jon Vickers as Florestan, and Walter Berry as Don Pizarro. Ludwig, singing Leonore for the first time, negotiates a role that lay high for her with grace and intensity; she's in strong voice, with complete security even at the top of her range, and she has both the strength and vulnerability the part requires. Vickers is fully engaging dramatically, but his voice doesn't have the consistent fullness and power that characterize his best work, and his vibrato doesn't always sound controlled. Berry is a darkly sinister and genuinely threatening Pizarro. Gundula Janowitz, at the very beginning of her career, sings with lovely warmth as Marzelline, and Waldemar Kmentt is a passionate Jaquino. Eberhard Waechter's Don Fernando is full and noble. The sound is adequate, but somewhat remote, and doesn't have a strong sense of presence. The higher voices and instruments occasionally tend to sound shrill.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Fidelio, opera, Op. 72
1 6:30
2 4:25
3 4:28
4 0:45
5 3:57
6 2:01
7 5:50
8 2:07
9 0:55
10 3:10
11 0:42
12 4:27
13 7:42
14 0:25
15 6:48
16 5:06
17 2:34
18 4:02
blue highlight denotes track pick