|Jonas Kaufman has become particularly associated
with the role of Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and in that regard he
follows many of the world’s greatest tenors and confirms his position among
them. Of course the impact the role makes is heightened by the delay in
Florestan’s appearance, delayed as it is until the opening scene of Act Two.
Musically Kaufman does not disappoint: his ringing tone as he cries out ‘God
what darkness here!’ could hardly be more stirring. And as the Act continues
he is joined by a cast who work musically as a team, with Adrianne Pieczonka
as his wife Leonore adding a special intensity as the music develops its
With an excellent cast therefore, and with the Vienna
Philharmonic conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, this Fidelio recorded live at
the Salzburg Festival would on the face of it have much to recommend it. And
had it been issued on CD, that would indeed have been the case. However,
this is a DVD issue, and unless you are one those very few opera lovers who
likes to have each new performance reinterpreted by a director who is so
intelligent that his vision and insights leave us other mere mortals behind,
then this new version cannot be recommended.
generated much hostility among the Salzburg audience, and it is not hard to
understand why. The spoken dialogue was conveniently replaced by
‘atmospheric’ noises, recorded sounds created by Torsten Ottersberg
suggesting sundry rumblings and groanings, during the course of which the
singers either improvise their actions or stand around trying to look
suitably thoughtful. The sets make no attempt to conjure the prison in its
various aspects: neither the domestic scene above ground in Act 1, nor the
dark dungeon in Act 2. Instead there are huge walls and doors, against which
various shadows are projected, both large and small. Perhaps it’s all
intended to allow us to delve into the deeper feelings of the characters,
and to provide profound psychological insights. Or perhaps not. Who knows?
Presumably the director Claus Guth knew, since he was the genius behind
If anyone should chance to purchase this DVD I’d be astonished
if it would ever come off the shelf again for a second playing. But enough
said, I’m off to the charity shop.