The Telegraph, June 23, 2011
Geoffrey Norris
Beethoven: Fidelio, CD review

This gripping performance of Beethoven’s only opera stems from last year’s Lucerne Festival, where it was given a semi-staging in the magnificent acoustics of the city’s Kultur und Kongresszentrum.

Claudio Abbado’s command of the score and its structure is consummate, the atmosphere palpable through his perceptive application of orchestral colour. The detail he elicits from his hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra is phenomenal, the blend of sonorities aglow, the clarity of texture refined with a masterly touch.

Abbado likes to work with artists he knows well, and in the realms of singers, as with orchestral players, he chooses from the higher echelons. Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan might not appear until Act Two, but it is worth the wait for his anguished crescendo on “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!”.

Kaufmann sings gloriously, and with lyrical lustre as gleams of hope lighten his crepuscular world in “Euch werde Lohn”.

Nina Stemme’s Leonore is a perfect match, the mix of tenderness and resolve in her voice giving Act One’s “Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern” a potent urgency. There is sharp characterisation, too, in Falk Struckmann’s Pizarro, his malevolence intense in “Ha! Welch ein Augenblick”.

The chorus is superb, bringing rays of wonderment to the prisoners’ glimpse of sunlight. Stellar as the participants might be, there is always the feeling this is an ensemble production with Abbado’s firm hand of humanity in inspiring control.


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