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Fidelio


Fidelio is a two-act opera by Ludwig van Beethoven, with a libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner, Stephan von Breuning, and Georg Friedrich Treitschke. The opera tells the story of Leonore, who disguises herself as a man named Fidelio to rescue her husband Florestan, a political prisoner unjustly held by the tyrant Don Pizarro. Set in a Spanish prison during the era of political oppression, the narrative explores themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for freedom. Through Leonore's courage and determination, the opera culminates in a triumphant finale, celebrating the triumph of love and justice over tyranny. The opera is scored for a standard classical orchestra, including strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, with prominent roles for the vocal soloists. Structurally, it follows traditional operatic conventions with recitatives and arias, that advance the plot and reveal the characters' emotions, and it incorporates elements of both opera seria and opera buffa. Upon its premiere at the Theater-an-der-Wien, on the 20th of November 1805, it faced mixed reviews. While some praised Beethoven's innovative score and the opera's themes of liberty and heroism, others criticised its length, complex plot, and departure from operatic conventions of the time. Beethoven himself was dissatisfied with the reception and made revisions to the opera for subsequent performances. Today, it is considered one of the greatest operas in the repertoire, admired for its dramatic intensity and musical innovation.

 
The Opera
Characters
Name
Description
Voice Type 
Premiere Cast
Don Fernando
Minister of State
bass
NN Weinkopf
Leonore
wife of Florestan under the guise of 'Fidelio'
soprano
Pauline Anna Milder
(later Milder-Hauptmann)
Don Pizarro
overseer of the prison
baritone
Friedrich Sebastian Mayer
Rocco
jailer
bass
NN Rothe
Marzelline
daughter of Rocco
soprano
Louise Müller
Florestan
prisoner of state and Leonore's husband
tenor
Friedrich Christian Demmer
Jaquino
turnkey and porter
tenor
Josef Caché
First prisoner
 
tenor
unknown
Second prisoner
 
bass
unknown
Chorus of soldiers, prisoners and people 
Setting
A state prison near Seville, 1700s.
Acts
Overture
Act I
Role
Scene I
1
Duet
'Jetzt, Schätzchen'
Jaquino, Marzelline
2
Recitative
'Der arme Jaquino'
Marzelline
3
Aria
'O wär' ich schon mit dir vereint'
Marzelline
4
Recitative
'Ist Fidelio nochnicht zurück gekommen?'
Rocco, Marzelline, Leonore
5
Quartet
'Mir ist so wunderbar'
Marzelline, Leonore, Rocco, Jaquino
6
Recitative
'Höre, Fidelio'
Rocco, Marzelline, Leonore
7
Aria
'Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben'
Rocco
8
Recitative
'Ihr könnt das leicht sagen'
Leonore, Rocco, Marzelline
9
Trio
'Gut Söhnchen, gut'
Rocco, Leonore, Marzelline
Scene II
10
March
  
[orchestra]
11
Recitative
'Drei Schildwachen auf den Wall'
Pizarro, Rocco
12
Aria with Chorus
'Ha! Welch ein Augenblick!'
Pizarro, chorus
13
Recitative
'Hauptmann!'
Pizarro
14
Duet
'Jetzt, Alter, hat es Eile!'
Pizarro, Rocco
15
Recitative and Aria
'Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?'
Leonore
16
Recitative
'Rocco, ich ersuchte euch schon'
Leonore, Rocco, Marzelline
17 
Chorus (Finale)
'O welche Lust!'
chorus, first prisoner, second prisoner
18
Recitative and Duet
'Nun sprecht, wie ging's?'
Leonore, Rocco
19
Quintet with Chorus
'Arch! Vater, eilt!
Marzelline, Leonore, Jaquino, Pizarro, Rocco
20
Overture to 'Leonore', No. 3
 
[orchestra]
Act II
Role
Scene I
1
Introduction
 
[orchestra]
2
Aria
'Gott! Welch' Dunkel hier!'
Florestan
3
Melodrama and Duet
'Wie Kalt ist es'
Leonore, Rocco
4
Recitative
'Er erwacht!'
Leonore, Rocco, Florestan
5
Trio
'Euch werde Lohn in besser'n Welten'
Florestan, Rocco, Leonore
6
Recitative
'Alles ist bereit'
Rocco, Leonore, Florestan, Pizarro
7
Quartet
'Er sterbe!'
Pizarro, Florestan, Leonore, Rocco
8
Recitative
'O, meine Leonore'
Florestan, Leonore
9
Duet
'O namenlose Freude!'
Leonore, Florestan
Scene II
10
Chorus (Finale)
'Heil sei dem Tag'
chorus, Fernando, Rocco, Pizarro, Leonore, Marzelline
11
Scene with Chorus
'Des besten Königs Wink und Wille'
Fernando, et al
12
Chorus
'Bestrafet sei der Bösewicht'
 
13
Quintet with Chorus
'O Gott!'
Leonore, Florestan, Fernando, Marzelline, Rocco, chorus
14
Chorus with Quintet
'Wer ein holdes Weib errungen'
chorus, Florestan, Leonore, Marzelline, Jaquino, Fernando, Rocco
15
Overture to 'Leonore', No. 1
 
[orchestra]
16
Overture to 'Leonore', No. 2
 
[orchestra]



Sources:
1. Ludwig Van Beethoven. Fidelio: An Opera in Two Acts. New York: G. Schirmer, 1907.
2. Ludwig Van Beethoven, Fidelio [CD]. Brewer, Mac Master, Sigmundsson, Matthews, Uusitalo et al, London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, recorded 2006, LSO Live, 2007.
3. W.M. Senner. The Critical Reception of Beethoven's Compositions by His German Contemporaries, vol. 2. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
   

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