A Capricious Fidelio Disappoints in Madrid

 SpainSpain  Beethoven: Fidelio, Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus, Hartmut Haenchen (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 30.5.2015 (JMI)


 Leonore: Adrienne Pieczonka
Florestan: Michael König
Rocco: Franz-Josef Selig
Pizarro: Alan Held
Marzelline: Anett Fritsch
Jaquino: Ed Lyon
Don Fernando: Goran Juric

Valencia Palau de les Arts
Direction, Sets, Costumes and Lighting: Pier’Alli

Fidelio is demanding in almost every respect. It’s one of those operas that leaves one feeling euphoric if the performance has succeeded. I cannot say that this was my mood when leaving the Teatro Real: this performance was not outstanding either vocally or in musical terms. In fact, I left the theatre feeling somewhat angry. I found it difficult to understand, let alone to accept, some capricious decisions by the conductor.

The production is the well-known one by Pier’Alli that inaugurated Valencia’s Palau de Les Arts in 2006, and was staged again four years ago. The Florentine director successfully passes the aesthetics test but falls somewhat short in pure stage direction. The entrance of Pizarro and his guards, for example, is more worthy of La Fille du Regiment than of Fidelio. In the duet between Florestan and Leonore in the dungeon, they’re separated by some five meters, the antithesis of the reunion of a loving couple in such exceptional circumstances. The most attractive part of the staging is the use of projections in the second act, particularly in the dungeon scene. The costumes are well-suited to the time period of the libretto.

The musical direction was under the baton of Hartmut Haenchen, and I found his conducting less satisfying than on previous occasions. The overture seemed excessively noisy to me, and it was followed by a somewhat bland and routine reading in Act I. Things improved in Act II, but the final scene lacked brilliance. The orchestra sounded all right, although they were not at their peak; the chorus was good.

As opera lovers know, Beethoven worked for nine years on revisions of this opera and composed some four different overtures: the one known today as Fidelio’s overture and three others that are named Leonore (the original title of the opera). There is a long tradition that one of the Leonore overtures is played after the dungeon scene in the second act  ̶  usually Leonore 3. I’ve never found this inclusion convincing as it breaks the intensity of the drama on stage. However, the tradition is a very long one and, in any case, this is a piece closely linked to the opera. Hartmut Haenchen went further: instead of the Leonore 3 Overture, he did the last two movements of the Fifth Symphony by the genius from Bonn which, of course, has nothing to do with Fidelio. This is nothing less than a true pastiche, so frequent and abused in the 18th century and completely out of place nowadays. Haenchen’s decision seemed to me a pure personal caprice. Why  not bring a piano on stage and play the “Emperor Concerto”? Why not the “Ode to Joy”?

Adrienne Pieczonka played the character of Leonore, which is not a typical role for her. She is a great singer, one of the best sopranos today, but her voice is a little light and not particularly well suited to Leonore. I prefer her in her usual repertoire.

Michael König was Florestan and, as happens with many tenors who sing this part, he struggled in his aria. Franz Josef Selig was a suitable interpreter of Rocco, although he was not too convincing in his aria on gold. Alan Held gave life to Don Pizarro and did reasonably well, although his singing was not especially nuanced. Soprano Anett Fritsch also did nicely in the part of Marzelline, although I prefer her in other roles. She is a wonderful performer on stage, and Marzelline does not offer many possibilities in this regard. Ed Lyon was a serviceable Jaquino, and Goran Juric was good as Don Fernando.



José M. Irurzun



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