At the time of its first release in 1977, this was a groundbreaking set, presenting for the first time to an international public the first thoughts – or the first extant thoughts – of Beethoven in his protracted attempts to write an opera. Subjects came and went, but the story, already the subject of two operas now consigned to historical oblivion, of a political prisoner rescued by his wife in travesti, retained an obvious and persistent appeal to a composer who had already distinguished himself – and lost not a few clients in the process – for his passionate embrace of enlightenment, even revolutionary ideals.
But when first performed in Vienna in 1805, the opera, named after the woman ahead of her time, had a frosty reception, not least because Vienna was under French military occupation, and most of the audience were French officers who could have taken none too favourably to the critique of a brutal dictatorship which can only be resisted through the last powers of marital love. Revisions followed in 1806, but the version now universally known and loved was finally created and heard in 1814, by which time Beethoven’s own style had undergone a sea-change towards concision and dislocation. Fidelio largely follows those changes, so that the earlier version is much fuller, in three acts, perhaps more of its time but with much music that no lover of Beethoven should miss.
- Reissue of this near legendary recording of Beethoven’s Leonore (the first version of what later became Fidelio).
This recording from 1977 was the first recording of this opera, and since then remains a benchmark.
- Featuring the best singers of the time: Eberhard Büchner, Edda Moser, Edith Mathis, Theo Adam, Karl Ridderbusch, and the Staatskapelle Dresden conducted by Herbert Blomstedt.
- “I was enthralled by this performance, which I would recommend to all Beethovenites and all opera-lovers.” (Gramophone, August 1977)
- Libretto available at www.brilliantclassics.com (on release)