Leonie Rysanek / Eugen Jochum

Beethoven: Fidelio

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This live recording of Fidelio, made in Rome in 1957, doesn't get off to a strong start, but by the second act everything has fallen into place to make for a powerful performance. Eugen Jochum leads Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della RAI in a reading that's generally well paced but occasionally lacks the urgency that reflects Beethoven's passionate feelings for the subject and his characters. The orchestral playing isn't uniformly excellent; the horns get off to a rocky start and continue to have occasional burbles, but they improve over the course of the performance. Leonie Rysanek, whose performance is ostensibly the primary reason for this version to be released, isn't in top form in the first act. The beginning of "Abscheulischer" lacks force and she has some difficulties with intonation, but the aria ends strongly. Especially early in the opera, it sounds like her voice, particularly her middle and lower registers, isn't fully present, but she gains power as the performance progresses. In the second act, she displays the authority and vocal brilliance that made this a signature role for her. The other performances are generally solid, particularly Elisabeth Lindermeier as Marzelline, Ferdinand Frantz as Don Pizarro, Hans Hopf as Florestan, and Ludwig Weber as Rocco. The sound quality is a little rocky at first, but it improves after the overture. There's very little stage or audience noise, and the sound is clean for a live recording of this vintage, if a little distant when characters aren't close to a mike.

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