Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fideliosity - The Chorus in Fidelio

This is the fourth post in a series which we hope will help you to get to know Beethoven’s rarely-performed Fidelio before you come to see it at HGO. Please let us know what you think by commenting on our Facebook page or leaving a comment this post.

Richard Bado, Chorus Master
The Fidelio chorus is on nearly every chorus master’s bucket list. Why?

There are, of course, endless operas with thrilling choral music, but as Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio is a unique part of the operatic repertoire. Both of the major choral moments in this piece are incredibly moving, but are so different in scope, they could easily be from two different works.

The chorus appears in the finales of each act of the opera (in addition to a brief appearance of 20 men as soldiers in Pizarro’s aria earlier in Act I). The choral writing for each act is hugely different, but extremely effective. The Act I finale begins with the famous prisoner’s chorus – this men-only ensemble in four-part harmony is a beautiful, expansive, and wistful musical exclamation of the prisoners’ first glimpse of the sun after years of being held captive within the dark prison. The awe and wonder they express, along with the hesitation to embrace any sense of hope, is ever present in their singing. The act ends with the prisoners being led back into their cells singing “Leb’ wohl, du warmes Sonnenlicht” (“Farewell, warm sunlight”).

The Act II finale is the only time we will see and hear the entire 82-member HGO Chorus. This writing, much like the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, praises this very day and moment of the release of the prisoners and their reuniting with loved ones. We hear loud, celebratory, and exuberant singing that is unlike anything else heard in the opera. There is little subtlety in this writing, but rather unbridled joy as the opera draws to a close.

We embrace the timelessness and universal quality of Fidelio. It is a story of our living, changing world that never loses its ability to unite and work together with a sense of community – much like the members of the HGO Chorus.

See you at the opera!

Richard Bado, Chorus Master
Craig Kier, Assistant Chorus Master