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Cat. No. CHAN 3123(2) Price: £18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3123 - Beethoven: Opera - 'Fidelio'
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Available From: 09 May 2005
"Of Fidelio, Beethoven said:

‘Of all my children, the one that cost me the worst birth-pangs, the one that brought me the most sorrow; and for that reason it is the one most dear to me. Before all the others I hold worthy of being preserved and used for the science of art.’

When we look at the work’s tortuous compositional process, the reason for this statement becomes apparent. No wonder the opera was Beethoven’s sole contribution to the genre: Fidelio took ten years to compose and was re-written twice. Miraculously, this great piece shows no signs of its troubled inception: it is as consistent a work of genius as any of his major scores.

Few operas have such a clear political bias – the victory of liberalism over unjust reactionary tyranny – or a closer identification with a specific historical event – the fall of the Bastille in the first French Revolution of 1789 – but it is a surprise to read that the libretto was based loosely on a real-life rescue story in which an imprisoned aristocrat was rescued by left-wing revolutionaries.

The opera is based on a story by Jean Nicholas Bouilly, a lawyer and judge in the service of various French administrations both before and during the Revolution. While an administrator in Touraine in the 1790s, he claimed to have assisted Madame de La Valette, a noblewoman, in her attempts to save her aristocratic husband from the guillotine.The events, he said, inspired the drama of Léonore, a story detailing a wife’s unsinkable loyalty to an unjustly imprisoned husband.Throughout his life, Beethoven sought to express, through his music, his faith in the goodness of humanity and his belief in the ultimate victory of good over evil. More than anything else he ever wrote, Fidelio encapsulates that credo.

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Reviews

The cast is a strong one, with commanding performances from Christine Brewer and Robert Lloyd, as Leonora and the jailer Rocco, and a vivacious Marzellina from Rebecca Evans… But if you want the opera in English this new version, sympathetically and intelligently conducted by David Parry, is impressive.
BBC Music Magazine

Christine Brewer is so much in command, and in such splendid voice, that there is no doubt that it is Vanessas story.
Gramophone on CHSA 5032 (Samuel Barber’s Vanessa)

The lovely, warm soprano of Rebecca Evans shines as Susanna… she captures the right feeling of sensuality of a woman awaiting her lover on her wedding night…
Classic FM Magazine ‘Disc of the Month’ on CHAN 3113(3) (Figaro)

Rebecca Evanss Ilia is all one expects from this lovely soprano, the voice pure, intonation secure and musicianship impeccable…
The Sunday Telegraph on CHAN 3103(2) (Idomeneo)

Abetted by superbly responsive playing from the Philharmonia Orchestra, David Parry paces the opera shrewdly, knows exactly when to ratchet up the tension, and rarely misses a trick with Beethoven’s wonderfully original orchestral strokes. The cast can hold its own against any modern ‘Fidelio’ Christine Brewer makes a moving heroine, fearlessly flinging out top Bs and B flats, but softening the bright blade of her soprano in the expression of tenderness and pathos… Capping the performance is the magnificent singing of the chorus, who help to make the final hymn to freedom as Dionysian as you will hear.
The Telegraph ‘Classical CD of the week’

David Parry draws some tremendous playing fomr the Philharmonia on this disc: thrilling horn calls, wind sounds that can caress the ear or terrify the heart, string playing that throbs with energy – and all at the service of drama.
Classic FM

This recording is more successful than several others in meeting the work’s challenges. It is sung in David Pountney’s excellent translation, which strikes a happy medium between modern vernacular and stilted period-speak in the dialogue. David Parry conducts a powerful interpretation and the Philharmonia plays superbly, with the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir in good voice as prisoners and populace.
Sunday Telegraph

The recording is spacious in the familiar Chandos mode, and there’s a good booklet note from Mike Ashman. As a whole, if you want the work in the vernacular, this set has much to offer in terms of accomplished and dedicated singing.
Gramophone

 

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