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Encyclopedia > Fidelio

Fidelio (Op. 72) is an opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly. The opera tells how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named "Fidelio", rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison. The Teatro alla Scala in Milan. ... 1820 portrait by Karl Stieler Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced ) (baptised December 17, 1770[1] – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist. ... A libretto is the complete body of words used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, sacred or secular oratorio and cantata, musical, and ballet. ... Jean-Nicolas Bouilly (January 24, 1763 - April 14, 1842) was a French author. ...



Like much else in Beethoven's career, the opera involved considerable struggle on the composer's part, and it went through several versions before achieving full success.

The opera is a central work of Beethoven's so-called "middle period," and like much of Beethoven's music of this time it emphasizes heroism. Bouilly's story undoubtedly attracted Beethoven for the opportunities it offered in portraying heroism in the main characters. The story also engaged Beethoven's strong feelings about the struggle for political liberty that was taking place in Europe in his day.

As elsewhere in Beethoven's vocal music, the music is not especially kindly to the singers. The principal parts of Leonore and Florestan, in particular, require great vocal skill in order to project the necessary intensity without screaming or shouting, and top performances in these roles attract admiration.

Some notable moments in the opera include the Prisoner's Chorus, an ode to freedom sung by a chorus of political prisoners, Florestan's hallucinating vision of Leonore come as an angel to rescue him, and the highly melodramatic scene in which the rescue finally takes place. The finale celebrates Leonore's bravery with alternating contributions of soloists and chorus.

Performance history

The opera was first produced in a three-act version under the title Leonore in Vienna's Theater an der Wien, on November 20, 1805, with additional performances the following two nights. The success of these performances was greatly hindered by the fact that Vienna was under French military occupation, and most of the audience were French military officers. After this premiere, Beethoven was pressured by friends to revise and shorten the opera into just two acts, and he did so with the help of Stephan van Breuning, also writing a new overture (now known as "Leonore No. 3"; see below). In this form the opera was first performed on March 29 and April 10, 1806, with greater success. Further performances were prevented by a dispute between Beethoven and the theater management. Inhabitants according to official census figures: 1800 to 2005 Vienna in 1858 Vienna (German: Wien ) is the capital of Austria, and also one of the nine States of Austria. ... The Theater an der Wien is a historic theatre in Vienna. ... November 20 is the 324th day of the year (325th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1805 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... March 29 is the 88th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (89th in leap years). ... April 10 is the 100th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (101st in leap years). ... 1806 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...

Eight years later in 1814, Beethoven revised his opera yet again, with additional work on the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke. This version was first performed Kärtnertor Theater on May 23, 1814, under the title Fidelio. The 17-year-old Franz Schubert was in the audience, having sold his school books to obtain a ticket. The increasingly-deaf Beethoven led the performance, "assisted" by Michael Umlauf, who later performed the same task for Beethoven at the premiere of the Ninth Symphony. The role of Pizarro was taken by Johann Michael Vogl, who later became known for his collaborations with Schubert. This version of the opera was, finally, a great success for Beethoven, and Fidelio has been important part of the operatic repertory ever since. 1814 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Librettist and translator. ... May 23 is the 143rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (144th in leap years). ... Franz Peter Schubert (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer considered to be both the last master of the Viennese Classical school and one of the earliest proponents of musical Romanticism. ... Michael Umlauf was the musical director of the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna during the early 19th century. ... German composer Ludwig van Beethoven The Symphony No. ... Johann Michael Vogl (August 10, 1768–November 19, 1840) was an Austrian baritone singer and composer. ...

Beethoven cannot be said to have enjoyed the difficulties posed by writing and producing an opera. In a letter to Treitschke he said, 'I assure you, dear Treitschke, that this opera will win me a martyr's crown. You have by your co-operation saved what is best from the shipwreck. For all this I shall be eternally grateful to you.'

The opera was published in all three versions, as Beethoven's Opus 72.

The Overtures to Fidelio

Beethoven struggled to produce an appropriate overture for Fidelio, and ultimately went through four versions. His first attempt, for the 1805 premiere, is believed to have been the overture now known as Leonore No. 2. Beethoven then focused this version for the performances of 1806, creating Leonore No. 3. The latter is considered by many listeners as the greatest of the four overtures, but as an intensely dramatic, full-scale symphonic movement it had the defect of overwhelming the (rather light) initial scenes of the opera. Beethoven accordingly experimented with cutting it back somewhat, for a planned 1807 performance in Prague; this is believed to be the version now called Leonore No. 1. Finally, for the 1814 revival Beethoven began anew, and with fresh musical material wrote what we now know as the Fidelio overture. As this somewhat lighter overture seems to work best of the four as a start to the opera, Beethoven's final intentions are generally respected in contemporary productions. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

Gustav Mahler introduced the practice, common until the middle of the twentieth century, of performing Leonore No. 3 between the two scenes of the second act, and some conductors still perform it there. In this location, it acts as a kind of musical reprise of the rescue scene that has just taken place. This article cites its sources but does not provide page references. ...

Roles and instrumentation

Premiere, November 20, 1805
(Beethoven conducting)
Premiere of final version,
May 23, 1814
(Michael Umlauf)
Florestan, a prisoner tenor Friedrich Christian Demmer Radichi
Leonore, his wife soprano Anna Milder Anna Milder-Hauptmann
Rocco, gaoler bass Rothe Carl Friedrich Weinmüller
Marzelline, his daughter soprano Louise Müller

Theresa Bondra Michael Umlauf was the musical director of the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna during the early 19th century. ... In music, a tenor is a male singer with a high vocal range. ... Look up soprano in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the lowest vocal range of the human voice. ...

Jaquino, assistant to Rocco tenor Caché Früwald
Don Pizarro, governor of the prison bass-baritone Sebastian Mayer,
Mozart's brother-in-law
Johann Michael Vogl
Don Fernando, King's minister bass Weinkopf Ignaz Saal
Two prisoners Tenor and Bass Unknown Unknown
Soldiers, prisoners, townspeople

Note: the second version of the opera premiered on March 29, 1806 with the same cast as the first premiere, except with Joseph August Röckel as Florestan. The only other performance of the second version was on April 10. A bass-baritone is a singing voice that shares certain qualities of both the baritone and the bass. ... Johann Michael Vogl (August 10, 1768–November 19, 1840) was an Austrian baritone singer and composer. ... In music, a tenor is a male singer with a high vocal range. ... A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the lowest vocal range of the human voice. ...

The orchestra consists of 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, and strings. There is also an onstage trumpet. The piccolo is a small flute. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... Two soprano clarinets: a Bâ™­ clarinet (left) and an A clarinet (right, with no mouthpiece). ... A Fox Products bassoon. ... This is a contrabassoon. ... The horn is a brass instrument that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. ... Trumpeter redirects to here. ... The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. ... A timpanist in the United States Air Forces in Europe Band. ... A string instrument (or stringed instrument) is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. ...


The setting is a Spanish state prison, a few miles from Seville, in the late 1700s. NO8DO (I was not abandoned) Location Coordinates : ( ) Time Zone : CET (GMT +1) - summer: CEST (GMT +2) General information Native name Sevilla (Spanish) Spanish name Sevilla Founded 8th-9th century BC Postal code 41001-41080 Website http://www. ...

Act I

Jaquino and Marzelline are alone. Jaquino asks Marzelline when she will agree to marry him, but she says that she will never marry him now that she has fallen in love with Fidelio (Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein ["Now, darling, we are alone"]). Jaquino leaves, and Marzelline expresses her desire to become Fidelio's wife (O wär ich schon mit dir vereint ["If only I were already united with thee"]). Rocco and Jaquino enter, looking for Fidelio. Fidelio, who is Leonore in disguise, enters carrying a heavy load of newly repaired chains. Rocco compliments Leonore on her skill, and misinterprets her modest reply as hidden attraction to his daughter. Marzelline, Leonore, Rocco, and Jaquino sing a quartet about the love Marzelline has for Fidelio (Mir ist so wunderbar ["A wondrous feeling fills me"]). Rocco tells Leonore that as soon as the governor has left for Seville, she and Marzelline can be married. He tells them, however, that unless they have money, they will not be happy. (Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben). Leonore says that she wants something else at least as much as money: To know why Rocco will not permit her 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 her, and inside is a man who has wasted away for two years because of his powerful enemies. Marzelline begs her father to keep Leonore away from such a terrible sight. Instead Rocco and Leonore sing of courage (Gut, Söhnchen, gut), and soon Marzelline joins in their acclamations.

All but Rocco leave. A march is played as Pizarro enters with guards. Rocco gives Pizarro a message with a warning that the minister plans a surprise visit tomorrow to investigate accusations that Pizarro is a tyrant. Pizarro exclaims that he cannot let the minister discover the imprisoned Don Florestan, who has been thought dead. Instead, Pizarro will murder Florestan (Ha, welch ein Augenblick! ["Hah! What a moment!"]). Pizarro orders that a trumpet be sounded at the minister's arrival. He offers Rocco money to kill Florestan, but Rocco refuses (Jetzt, Alter, jetzt hat es Eile!), and instead Pizarro orders him to dig a grave in the ruined well in the dungeons. Leonore has seen Pizarro plotting, but has not overheard what he said. She is agitated, but thoughts of her husband calm her down (Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? . . . Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern).

Jaquino begs Marzelline to marry him, but she refuses. Leonore, hoping to find Florestan, asks Rocco to let the poor prisoners roam in the garden and enjoy the beautiful weather. Marzelline also begs him, and Rocco agrees to distract Pizarro while the prisoners are set free. The prisoners, overjoyed at their freedom, sing joyfully (O welche Lust), but, remembering that they could be caught, are soon quiet. Rocco reenters and tells Leonore of his success with Pizarro: Pizarro will allow the marriage, and Leonore will be permitted to join Rocco on his rounds in the dungeon (Nun sprecht, wie ging's?). They prepare to go to the cell of a poor man who, says Rocco, must be killed and buried within the hour. Leonore is so shaken that Rocco tries to persuade her to stay behind, but she insists on coming. 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!). Before they can move, 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.

Act II

Florestan is alone in his cell, deep inside the dungeons. He sings first of his trust in God, then has a vision of Leonore coming to save him (Gott! Welch Dunkel hier! ["God! What darkness here"]. . . In des Lebens Frühlingstagen ["In the spring days of life"]). He collapses and falls asleep. Rocco and Leonore come to dig his grave and find him asleep. As they dig Rocco urges Leonore to hurry (Wie kalt ist es in diesem unterirdischen Gewölbe! ["How cold it is in this underground chamber"] ... Nur hurtig fort, nur frisch gegraben). Florestan awakes, and Leonore recognizes him. He asks that a message be sent to his wife, Leonore Florestan, but Rocco says it's impossible. Florestan begs for a drop to drink, and Rocco tells Leonore to give him one. Florestan does not recognize Leonore, and tells her she will be rewarded in Heaven (Euch werde Lohn in bessern Welten). She begs Rocco to be allowed to give Florestan a crust of bread, and he agrees. Florestan eats.

Pizarro appears and asks if everything is ready. Rocco says that it is and tells Leonore to leave, but instead she hides. Pizarro reveals his identity to Florestan, who accuses him of murder (Er sterbe! Doch er soll erst wissen ["Let him die! But first he should know"]). As Pizarro brandishes a dagger, Leonore leaps between him and Florestan and declares that before he kills Florestan, Pizarro must first kill his wife. Pizarro delights in the chance to kill both of them, but Leonore produces a pistol.

Just then the trumpet is heard, announcing the arrival of the minister. Jaquino enters, followed by soldiers, to announce that the minister is waiting at the gate. Rocco tells the soldiers to escort Governor Pizarro upstairs. Florestan and Leonore sing to their victory as Pizarro declares he will have revenge and Rocco expresses his fear of what is to come (Es schlägt der Rache Stunde). Together, Florestan and Leonore sing a love duet (O namenlose Freude!).

Here Overture to Leonore No. 3 is sometimes played.

The prisoners and townsfolk sing to the day and hour of justice which has come (Heil sei dem Tag!). The minister, Don Fernando, announces that tyranny has ended. Rocco enters, with Leonore and Florestan, and he asks Don Fernando to help them (Wohlan, so helfet! Helft den Armen!). Rocco explains how Leonore disguised herself as Fidelio to save her husband. Marzelline is shocked. Rocco describes Pizarro's murder plot, and Pizarro is led away to prison. Florestan is released from his chains by Leonore, and the crowd sings the praises of Leonore, the loyal savior of her husband (Wer ein holdes Weib errungen).


Fidelio is probably loved more by devotees of Beethoven than by listeners whose enthusiasm is for opera per se, for good reason. Beethoven portrayed his main characters with larger-than-life heroism, but little depth or nuance. The music is in the style of the composer's middle-period symphonies, and often threatens to overwhelm rather than convey the action of the drama. Thus it could be said that Beethoven wrote a great work of music which is supported and given greater meaning by a dramatic frame, whereas (say) Mozart and Verdi wrote works that are more successful as integrated works of art. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart; January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) was a prolific and highly influential composer of Classical music. ... Giuseppe Verdi, by Giovanni Boldini, 1886 (National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome). ...

Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler alludes to these general points in remarks he made in Salzburg in 1948, not long after the end of World War II and fall of Nazism: Portrait by Emil Orlik, 1928 Wilhelm Furtwängler (January 25, 1886 – November 30, 1954) was a German conductor and composer. ... Flag of Salzburg Salzburg (population 145,000 in 2005) is a city in western Austria and the capital of the federal state of Salzburg (population 520,000 in 2003). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... National Socialism redirects here. ...

"[T]he conjugal love of Leonore appears, to the modern individual armed with realism and psychology, irremediably abstract and theoretical.... Now that political events in Germany have restored to the concepts of human dignity and liberty their original significance, this is the opera which, thanks to the music of Beethoven, gives us comfort and courage.... Certainly, Fidelio is not an opera in the sense we are used to, nor is Beethoven a musician for the theater, or a dramaturgist. He is quite a bit more, a whole musician, and beyond that, a saint and a visionary. That which disturbs us is not a material effect, nor the fact of the 'imprisonment'; any film could create the same effect. No, it is the music, it is Beethoven himself. It is this 'nostalgia of liberty' he feels, or better, makes us feel; this is what moves us to tears. His Fidelio has more of the Mass than of the Opera to it; the sentiments it expresses come from the sphere of the sacred, and preach a 'religion of humanity' which we never found so beautiful or necessary as we do today, after all we have lived through. Herein lies the singular power of this unique opera.... Independent of any historical consideration ... the flaming message of Fidelio touches deeply.
"We realize that for we Europeans, as for all men, this music will always represent an appeal to our conscience."

Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. ... The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the fixed portions of the Eucharistic liturgy (principally that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, generally known in the US as the Episcopal Church, and also the Lutheran Church) to music. ...


Image File history File links Komm_o_Hoffnung. ... Software development stages In computer programming, development stage terminology expresses how the development of a piece of software has progressed and how much further development it may require. ... Alice Guszalewicz as Salomé, for a number of years this was thought to be Oscar Wilde. ...

External links

  • Opera Guide Synopsis - Libretto - Highlights
  • Opera in a nutshell" Soundfiles (MIDI)
  • Performance history, from Opera.stanford.edu
  • Program notes from "Apollo's Fire", reporting the tale about Schubert selling his school books to attend the premiere. The source is Schubert's friend Moritz von Schwind.
  • Detailed description of Beethoven'sFidelio on All About Beethoven.

  Results from FactBites:
Fidelio (726 words)
Fidelio is an opera in two acts by Beethoven.
This representation, under the original title "Fidelio," was preceded by the well-known Fidelio overture, the fourth written by the composer for the opera.
Leonore, his faithful wife, suspects that Pizarro has captured him, and, disguised as a youth under the name of Fidelio, she enters the service of Rocco, the jailor of the States prison of which Pizarro is the governor.
  More results at FactBites »



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