Ludwig van Beethoven

Fidelio, opera, Op. 72

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Fidelio, Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera, takes as its subject a theme close to the composer's heart: the defeat of tyranny through man's innate desire for liberty. The first version of the opera, premiered in 1805 under the title Leonore (the name of the heroine), was staggeringly unsuccessful. This was largely the result, however, of circumstances beyond Beethoven's control: Vienna was then occupied by Napoleon's troops, who made up a large part of the audience. It seems likely that the Beethoven-loving but troubled Viennese had more pressing concerns than attending such an entertainment. And the members of Napoleon's army might not have appreciated the opera's themes, which ran counter to the soldiers' very presence in Vienna.

    Beethoven retooled the opera in 1806, shuffling certain sections and making cuts. In this form Leonore was revived with considerable success, although Beethoven withdrew the opera from performance because of suspicions that he was not receiving his full share of the proceeds. In 1814 Beethoven revised the opera yet again, changing its name to Fidelio. This final version was a success, both in the theater and in the composer's own esteem, and it is this version that is generally regarded as the "definitive" incarnation of the opera. Each of the three "Fidelios" featured a different overture: the first version used what is now called the Leonore Overture No. 2; the second, Leonore No. 3; and the final used the Fidelio Overture. (Beethoven composed Leonore No. 1 for a Prague staging which never took place.) Though rarely heard in performances of the complete opera, each of the "Leonore" overtures has retained a place in the concert repertory.

    The original libretto was fashioned by Joseph Sonnleithner after Jean Bouilly's Leonore (1798). The text for the final version was reworked by the Leipzig-born playwright and poet Georg Friedrich Treitschke, whom Beethoven had met in 1811. The story concerns Leonore, who is trying to free her political-prisoner husband, the Spanish nobleman Florestan, from the prison of the evil Pizarro by disguising herself as a man, Fidelio, and working in the prison.

    Highlights from the score include the Act One quartet "Mir ist so wunderbar," which is certainly the most famous excerpt from the opera; Marcellina's Act One aria, "O wär' ich schon mit dir vereint," in which she discloses her burgeoning love for Fidelio; Florestan's Act One aria, "In des Lebens Frühlingstagen," which he sings in his cell thinking of his wife; and the lovely "O namenlose Freude," a moving duet between Florestan and Leonore that follows her foiling of the murder plot. There is much spoken dialogue throughout Fidelio; some have cited this aspect in criticism, saying that it robs the work of its momentum. That view is a minority one, however, and Fidelio has generally been held in high critical esteem; despite its sometimes shaky plot, the music is unassailably great and blazes with Beethoven's steadfast commitment to liberty and humanity. Fidelio makes explicit the strand of political idealism that seems to simmer beneath the surfaces of many of his other works, and if it does not have the universal appeal of some of his better-known orchestral classics, it nevertheless seems very close to Beethoven's own heart.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Overture
    2. Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein
    3. O wär ich schon mit dir vereint
    4. Mir ist so wunderbar
    5. Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben
    6. Gut Söhnchen gut
    7. March
    8. Ha! Ha! Ha! welch ein Augenblick
    9. Jetzt, Alter, jetzt hat es Eile!
    10. Absheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?... Komm, Hoffnung, lab den letzten Stern
    11. O welche Lust
    12. Gott! welch Dunkel hier!... In des Lebens Frühlingstagen
    13. Wie kalt ist es in...Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben!
    14. Euch werde Lohn
    15. Er sterbe!
    16. O namenlose Freude!
    17. Heil! Heil sei dem Tag

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Warner Classics
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797283
    2016 Eurodisc 88875194822
    2016 Eurodisc G010003459854U
    2015 Walhall WLCD 0352
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon B002346910
    2014 Myto Historical / Myto Records MYTO 00334
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Teldec 94560
    2012 Decca 4784139
    2012 Decca
    2012 IDIS IDIS 6638
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779830
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Decca
    2011 Sony Classical 8869785309
    2011 Decca 4782551
    2010 Orfeo 8131021
    2010 Oehms Classics OC919
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Golden Melodram / Melodram 5.0075
    2010 IDIS 6587/88
    2009 Glyndebourne 004-06
    2009 Decca 4780323
    2009 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996670
    2009 Sony BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 88697575592
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93921
    2008 EMI Classics 5099921763
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 5673642
    2008 Myto Records 161
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 001099002
    2008 Golden Melodram 50071
    2008 Avi-Music 8553085
    2008 Orfeo 771082
    2008 EMI Classics 11973
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 LSO LSO 0593
    2007 Golden Melodram 50063
    2007 Rhino
    2007 Osteria / Ponto [Mitridate] 10031
    2007 Arthaus Musik 101275
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93213
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2007 Allegro Corporation 9804
    2007 Allegro Corporation 9908
    2007 BRV 9807
    2006 Urania 289
    2006 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 3524302
    2006 Gala Records 772
    2006 Classics & Jazz
    2005 Opera D'Oro 7025
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000459002
    2005 Golden Melodram 50053
    2005 Andante 3090
    2005 Chandos 3123
    2005 Opus KURA 7004/05
    2004 VAI Audio 1222
    2004 Archipel 181
    2004 IDIS 6417/8
    2004 Gala Records 100597
    2004 Testament 1328
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474420
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 57555
    2003 Opera D'Oro 1380
    2003 Urania 246
    2002 IDIS 6379/80
    2002 Gebhardt 45
    2001 Gala Records 557
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1281
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1322
    2001 Orfeo 560012
    2001 Preiser Records 90458
    2001 Koch Schwann 31641
    2000 Myto Records 991025
    2000 Angel Records 67361
    2000 Teldec 25249
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 72860
    1999 Naxos 8660070/71
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78807
    1998 Telarc Distribution 80439
    1997 London / PolyGram 455066
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 556211
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453719
    1996 Decca 448104
    1996 RCA 902668344
    1995 Teldec 94560
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 555170-2
    1994 Preiser Records 90195
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 64901
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 64492
    1993 Golden Melodram 27085
    1992 RCA 60267
    1991 Philips 426308
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 419436
    1988 EMI Music Distribution 69290
    1985 London 410227
    1956 Capriccio Records 6718687
    Grammofono 2000 7801725
    RCA 60273
    Hunt Productions 34048
    Deutsche Grammophon 471204
    Golden Melodram 40762
    Urania Records WS 121118
    Deutsche Grammophon 437345
    Lys 384
    Aura Classics 1110
    Verona Records 27044
    Eurodisc 610093
    Theorema 121128
    Melodram 27076
    Arkadia 448
    EMI 69324
    Le Monde de l'Opera 04
    RCA 60962
    Theorema 121219
    Enterprise 4155
    Iron Needle 1302
    Memories 4394
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 5004
    Memories 4424