These two operas represent the moving on from the gauntlet thrown down by the brilliant Mozart with his "Da Ponte" operas and the final titanic "Magic Flute". Beethoven's is perhaps the less perfect of the two as he was never a composer of opera but under Harnoncourt's direction, both works come alive to the manner born, so to speak.
This "Fidelio" was recorded in 1995, and as with previous Teldec recordings, an excellent cast is assembled for the versatile Harnoncourt. My selected comparison is the 1961 Klemperer live performance at Covent Garden and this one surely runs it close especially with the exquisite singing of Seiffert and Margiano, the latter a quite underrated singer who has kind of rather faded away of late. The venerable Austrian conductor brings rather swift tempi to proceedings with the famous quartet particularly invigorating as is the overture. He also does away with the Leonora Overture #3, a debatable decision perhaps but nonetheless probably a correct one in the circumstances. All in all this is a hugely arresting performance.
Harnoncourt is also quite a dab hand in the Weber masterpiece which has received fine recordings over the years, not least the practically untouchable Carlos Kleiber version. Harnoncourt runs that one close, not least aided by singers who are at the top of their form. I particularly enjoyed Luba Orgonasova's Agathe which comes across as beautifully refreshing and quite ravishing. The minor roles are also extremely well taken but the conductor is actually the lynchpin who holds all together pretty admirably.
Librettos may be downloaded from the internet and the cover pictures chosen are suitably arresting as in others in this excellent series. If you are looking to start off with these operas in your collection, these are more than ideal.
Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech