Monday, October 10, 2011

Fideliosity - Week 2

This is the second 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 on this post. Unless otherwise noted, links in the synopsis below lead to selections on YouTube that are taken from the Metropolitan Opera production by Jürgen Flimm, which opens at Houston Grand Opera on October 28, 2011.

Beethoven's Fidelio is in two acts, set in a prison, and in this production everything takes place in the 20th century. The prison is run by a warden named Rocco, whose daughter Marzelline lives with him.

As the opera commences, Jaquino and Marzelline are discussing marriage. Unbeknownst to Jaquino, Marzelline has fallen in love with Fidelio, who is Leonore - the wife of the prisoner Florestan - in disguise. Jaquino leaves, and Marzelline expresses her desire to become Fidelio's wife in her aria, "wär ich schon mit dir vereint" - "If only I were already united with thee" (here sung by Sena Jurinac). Rocco and Jaquino enter, looking for Fidelio, who comes in with a heavy load of newly repaired chains. Rocco compliments Fidelio, and misinterprets his modest reply as hidden attraction to his daughter. Marzelline, Leonore, Rocco, and Jaquino sing "Mir ist so wunderbar" - "A wondrous feeling fills me".

Rocco tells Fidelio that as soon as the governor has left for Seville, he and Marzelline can be married. He also tells them, "Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben" - "If you don't have money set aside, you will not be happy". Fidelio asks why Rocco will not permit him to help him in the dungeons when he always comes back out of breath. Rocco says that there is a prison where he can never take Fidelio, and Marzelline begs her father to keep him away from it - but Fidelio prevails, and Rocco gives in, saying "Gut, Söhnchen, gut" - "All right, son, all right".

Pizarro enters with guards. Rocco warns Pizarro that the minister plans a surprise visit the next day. Pizarro exclaims that he cannot let the minister discover the imprisoned Florestan, who has been thought dead. Pizarro decides that Florestan must die "Ha, welch ein Augenblick!" - "Hah! What a moment!". He offers Rocco money to kill Florestan, but Rocco refuses: "Jetzt, Alter, jetzt hat es Eile - "Now, old man, we must hurry!", so Pizarro orders him to dig a grave in the well in the dungeon, and to signal him when it is ready.

Fidelio has seen Pizarro plotting, but has not overheard what he said. She is agitated, but thoughts of Florestan calm and focus her attention: "Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? ... Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern" - "Scum! Where are you going? ... Come, hope, let the last star"). Hoping to find Florestan, Fidelio begs Rocco to give the prisoners a few moments, respite in the garden. Rocco agrees to distract Pizarro while the prisoners are allowed out. Overwhelmed at their freedom, the prisoners sing, "O welche Lust" - "O what a joy", but, remembering that they could be caught, are soon quiet.

Rocco reenters and tells Fidelio of his success with Pizarro: "Nun sprecht, wie ging's?" - "Speak, how did it go?". (Note: this link refers to a Glyndebourne Festival production by Peter Hall, starring Elisabeth Söderström as Fidelio and Curt Appelgren as Rocco.) They prepare to go to the cell of a prisoner who, according to Rocco, must be killed and buried within the hour. As they prepare to leave, Jaquino and Marzelline rush in and tell Rocco to run: Pizarro has learned that the prisoners are free, and he is furious "Ach, Vater, Vater, eilt!" - "O, father, father, hurry!" here sung by Christa Ludwig).

Pizarro enters and demands an explanation. Rocco pretends that they are celebrating the King's naming day, and suggests quietly that Pizarro save his anger for the prisoner in the dungeons below. Pizarro tells him to hurry and dig the grave, then announces that the prisoners will be shut in again. Rocco, Leonore, Jacquino, and Marzelline reluctantly usher the prisoners back to their cells as they sing "Leb wohl, du warmes Sonnenlicht" -  "Adieu, warm sunshine".

Later this week: Act II.  

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