Beethoven's Fidelio, October 28th matinee at the Met?  I'm glad you asked.

The bad news is that probably very few opera lovers reading this were there.

The good news is that this transcendant music and soul-satisfying performance will be aired on PBS next season.  I'm lusting to see it again.  And again.  Elegantly put, it knocked my socks off.

I can't remember being so captivated by an event that I forgot I was in a theater to the point where I was startled --almost offended-- when the audience clapped.  Beethoven's score, the sumptuous voices, the artistry just rolling outward to engulf all seemed too celestial for mere applause:  reverence was needed.  I finally gave in and clapped until my arms fell off.

The opera was gorgeously sung from start to finish.  Karita Mattila's Fidelio/Leonore was jaw-droppingly splendid --every ardent note in every range-- and I had no problem seeing her young woman in male disguise, so well did she play out the role.  Ben Heppner's Florestan was flawless, wrenching, and his top brilliant.  With echoes of Jon Vickers' Florestan always in my head, I gladly give Heppner top marks.

René Pape (Rocco) was in rich, stunning voice, and his sometimes outmatched prison warden, reluctant accomplice to the attempted murder of Florestan, was perfection.

Jennifer Welch-Babidge (Marzelline) had a beautiful solid crystalline sound, very very satisfying in solo, though her volume tended to dominate when joined with other voices, creating some imbalance.  Her reaction when her betrothed Fidelio was revealed as Florestan's wife, I thought wonderful:  subdued "I Love Lucy".  Matthew Polenzani's Jaquino was played as boor not boob; he's got, IMO, an okay voice.

Falk Struckmann's Don Pizarro strutted neatly, but sounded a bit underpowered.  Robert Lloyd's role as Don Fernando is so small--he's got maybe 17.39 seconds in the limelight so I include him out of the high praise, probably unfairly.

Ensemble work, with and without the top-notch chorus, brought tears to my eyes, especially the sublime quartet in Act I.  No surprise, the orchestra was superlative, and in the Ode-to-Joyesque finale, beaming conductor James Levine openly sang along.

So?  It was goose-bumps all the way.  If there's any way you can get to see this live, especially with this cast, DO IT if there's a ticket to be had or stolen.  Be warned, ours was a Sold Out performance.

In the light of this paean, it seems shabby to inject a pet peeve:  I hate it when, just at the emotional climax --in this case when Fidelio/Leonore has finally found and freed Florestan-- the director chooses to place them across the stage from each other for a heartfelt duet. Argh!

Possibly you already know that Ludwig Van Beethoven no longer needs the stuff of 'reviews' to bolster his reputation anywhere on the planet.  It's a thousand pities that he composed only one opera.

Still enchanted, still sockless . . . Edie

Literary content:
Copyright:  © 2000 Edie Bard Blum

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