Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy: Beethoven - Fidelio (1805)

A rather off-balance recording is enlivened by fine singing performances of the early version Beethoven's opera Fidelio.

Composer:  Beethoven
Repertoire: Fidelio (1805 version)
Artists: Soloists, Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Opera
Label: Oehms OC 919

The Music: Beethoven’s opera about a wife rescuing her husband from prison contains some of his most exciting and dramatic music, full of noble grandeur and thrilling tension. This live recording presents the earliest version, from 1805. 

The Performance: Although this early version of Fidelio isn’t as strong as the 1814 revision common nowadays, it’s still fascinating to hear the composer’s first thoughts. Camilla Nylund is an exciting Leonore, and if her voice loses bloom at the top, her strength and power are still impressive. Kurt Streit brings touching vulnerability to the role of her husband, and de Billy’s conducting is suitably fiery. The balance of the recording makes the orchestra sound too distant however, and a ponderous narration in German (untranslated in the booklet) replaces the spoken dialogue which Beethoven originally used. 

The Verdict: Despite the odd recording balance and lugubrious narration, this is a well-sung performance of an interesting rarity with singers on decent form. 

Want More? Klemperer’s recording of the 1814 version, with Christa Ludwig and Jon Vickers presents the work at full power. It’s on EMI (567 3612).