Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven
Sunday July 31 All Day

Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven

Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor
Orchestra of St. Luke's
Bel Canto at Caramoor

Overview

Leonore  Elza van den Heever, soprano
Florestan Paul Groves, tenor
Marzelline Georgia Jarman, soprano
Rocco Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass
Jaquino Andrew Owens, tenor
Don Pizarro Alfred Walker, bass-baritone
Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor
Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Beethoven’s Fidelio – the master’s only opera – explores themes common to his “middle period”: of personal sacrifice, of heroism, and of delayed triumph. The story follows the efforts of a determined wife in disguise (soprano Elza van den Heever), the struggles of her imprisoned political-activist-husband (tenor Paul Groves), and a host of players from the reigning municipality who seek to keep him in chains. Fidelio was the fruit of Beethoven’s decade-long struggle to bend operatic forms to his personal vision. Its first version, Leonore, had met with mixed success in 1805. The revision, debuting in the same season as Rossini’s Aureliano, became an instant classic, and is now a cornerstone of the repertory. Its stunning synthesis of German and Italian operatic traditions with Beethoven’s unique force and nobility has challenged the greatest interpreters for two centuries, revealing new secrets in each generation.

Caramoor welcomes Pablo Heras-Casado, principal conductor of Orchestra of St. Luke’s, in his first turn at the Bel Canto opera stage.

Fidelio seemed to me the perfect choice for welcoming Pablo Heras-Casado to the Bel Canto podium. Beethoven has been a specialty of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s throughout its life, and the rapport with its new principal conductor in his symphonies has been electrifying.” – Will Crutchfield, Director of Opera

A host of pre-opera events, delicious picnics, tours of the historic Rosen House, and more make for an unforgettable day at Caramoor!

Caramoor Coach GraphicCatch the Caramoor Coach to and from Manhattan (single-ride and round-trip available), take the train (Metro-North Katonah Station, Harlem Line), or take a scenic drive and enjoy free parking – it’s easy to get here.

We’ll give you a lift! Free Metro-North Katonah Shuttle supported by

 

First Niagara Foundation

 

Pre-Opera Events in the Spanish Courtyard

1:00pm  Beethoven’s Wrestling Match with Opera

While Rossini was turning out three operas a year, Beethoven struggled for over a decade to bring just one to the stage. The Bel Canto Young Artists with Timothy Cheung traverse the path from Leonore (1805) to Fidelio (1814), opening a window onto the composer’s development and his love-hate relationship with the genre.

2:00pm   Bel Canto in Milan and Vienna, 1814

Fidelio and Aureliano seem worlds apart, but they premiered in the same season, in two cities linked by Austrian rule and by a shared love of Bel Canto singing. The Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices offer a capsule view of the other music their audiences were enjoying.

3:00pm  Introductions

Will Crutchfield introduces Fidelio.

4:00pm  Showtime Venetian Theater

Intermission Reception for All Membership Levels.

Pre-Opera Events in the Spanish Courtyard

1:00pm  Beethoven’s Wrestling Match with Opera

While Rossini was turning out three operas a year, Beethoven struggled for over a decade to bring just one to the stage. The Bel Canto Young Artists with Timothy Cheung traverse the path from Leonore (1805) to Fidelio (1814), opening a window onto the composer’s development and his love-hate relationship with the genre.

2:00pm   Bel Canto in Milan and Vienna, 1814

Fidelio and Aureliano seem worlds apart, but they premiered in the same season, in two cities linked by Austrian rule and by a shared love of Bel Canto singing. The Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices offer a capsule view of the other music their audiences were enjoying.

3:00pm  Introductions

Will Crutchfield introduces Fidelio.

4:00pm  Showtime Venetian Theater

Intermission Reception for All Membership Levels.

Fidelio: Elza van den Heever

Elza van den Heever, soprano  Leonore

“Blessed with a plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes,” (Associated Press) soprano Elza van den Heever’s 2015-2016 season is framed with a return to the role of Elisabetta di Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo, which she first sang for Oper Frankfurt in 2010. The South African soprano’s current season begins with her acclaimed rendering of Elisabetta di Valois for the Opéra National de Bordeaux in September/October and concludes with the role for the Opéra National du Rhin in June/July, 2016, in a new Robert Carsen production. The season is highlighted by a return to the Metropolitan Opera with a reprisal of her Metropolitan debut role, Elisabetta, in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, in January and February 2016. Ms. van den Heever’s 2012 depiction of the Queen earned her accolades for her “vocally burnished and emotionally tempestuous Elisabetta” (New York Times) and was broadcast worldwide to millions of viewers as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Series. In spring 2016, Ms. van den Heever will return to Frankfurt (where she was in residence from 2009-2013) for Puccini’s Il Trittico, in which she will make her role debut as Suor Angelica and return to the role that marked her 2009 European debut in Frankfurt, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro. The 2015-16 season also finds Ms. van den Heever on the concert stage in Benjamin Britten’s powerful War Requiem with Kölner Philharmonie under the baton of Semion Bychkov; Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 “Choral” with the Beethoven Orchester Bonn, Stefan Blunier conducting; and in an all-Mozart concert with the Orchestre National de Toulouse, conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini.

Ms. van den Heever’s 2014-15 season, as seasons before, was marked by triumph. She returned to the Metropolitan Opera in the role that launched her career, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, to critical acclaim: “Elza van den Heever, following her outstanding Met debut in 2012 as Elizabeth in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, is back as a vocally splendid and poignantly confused Donna Anna. Her singing is agile and focused, yet luminous and penetrating” (New York Times). The season concluded with a stirring portrayal of the title role in Bellini’s Norma, in a new Christopher Alden production for Opéra National de Bordeaux. Ms. van den Heever soared in her depiction of this most demanding of operatic heroines, garnering both critical and audience acclaim: “The virtuosity of Ms. van den Heever is breathtaking throughout the performance…coloratura at the top of the range, with stunning maturity in the lower range. With her controlled virtuosity, Elza van den Heever had the audience anxiously awaiting every note” (Bachtrack).

In Europe, Ms. van den Heever has most recently received accolades for her portrayal of Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes for the English National Opera (2014) and as Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin for Zürich Opera (2015) where she was described as “sharing more than a first name with the Wagnerian heroine. Her vocal lines are sophisticated, diction impeccable, and her inflection and nuances serve to depict Elsa as a young woman who is at once daring, bold and strong. This is truly wondrous in the second act during the verbal sparring with Ortrud, as well as in the final dramatic scene, in which her defiance is breathtaking” (Opéra Forum). She has also garnered critical acclaim for such roles as Desdemona in Otello for Oper Frankfurt where the Frankfurter Rundschau praised her “huge voice, full of tenderness and precision.” In addition to Desdemona and Elisabetta di Valois in Don Carlo, she has also appeared on the Frankfurt stage Elsa in Lohengrin, Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Elettra in Idomeneo. Her European successes also include Elsa in Lohengrin for Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper; Agathe in Der Freischütz at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien; Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte for Opéra National de Paris; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Hamburgische Staatsoper; and Elettra in Idomeneo, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, the title role in Anna Bolena, and Leonora in Il Trovatore, for Opéra National de Bordeaux; and Giselda at Hamburgische Staatsoper in a new Alden production of Verdi’s I Lombardi. In addition to the Met, critically acclaimed appearances in North America include the title role in Handel’s Alcina for Chicago Lyric Opera; Leonora for Canadian Opera Company; Fiordiligi with Dallas Opera; and Donna Anna with Santa Fe Opera. In San Francisco, where she participated in both the Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship, she portrayed Mary Custis Lee in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Appomattox and Donna Anna in the company’s 2007 Don Giovanni, performances which were seen nationwide through the company’s Grand Opera Cinema Series and broadcast on Northern California’s KQED Public Television. She enjoys a successful performance partnership with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony with performances of Strauss’s Four Last Songs and GRAMMY Award winning performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in San Francisco, on tour in Europe and on disc for SFS Media. Ms. van den Heever’s depiction of Ellen Orford for the ENO was repeated with Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in June 2014, where she was acclaimed as “a brilliant Ellen, deploying her focused, penetrating instrument with urgency upon discovering the Boy’s bruises in Act II, and singing with ineffable beauty and poignancy in the Embroidery Aria” (Opera News).

One of triplets, Ms. van den Heever was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and received her musical training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Winner of the 2008 Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition, she continues to study with soprano and master teacher Sheri Greenawald. A dual citizen of France and South Africa, Ms. van den Heever makes her home in Bordeaux, France.

 

Fidelio: Paul Groves

Paul Groves, tenor  Florestan

American tenor Paul Groves enjoys an impressive international career performing on the stages of all the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls.

Paul Groves begins his 2015/16 season in a rare role debut singing Rodrigue in Massenet’s Le Cid with Boston’s Odyssey Opera. He then returns to the Metropolitan Opera for Berg’s Lulu, conducted by James Levine. Groves makes another role debut in February in the East Coast premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain with Opera Philadelphia. He returns to Opéra de Lyon in May for performances of Stravinsky’s Perséphone, for which Opera Today praised his “splendid” portrayal of Eumolpus at the Aix-en-Provence Festival last July. A seasoned concert performer, Groves appears in a trilogy of Berlioz works this season – with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the Te Deum in February, the San Francisco Symphony for the composer’s Requiem in March, and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Roméo et Juliette in April.

Paul Groves made an important role debut in the 2014-15 season when he performed the title role in Wagner’s Lohengrin in a new production with the Norwegian National Opera in Olso. He returned to the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence to revive his portrayal in staged performances of Stravinsky’s Perséphone as well as to the Vienna Staatsoper where he appeared as Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Mr. Groves appeared throughout the season in concert, including appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra.

Highlights of recent seasons for the tenor include his first performances in the title role of Wagner’s Parsifal with Lyric Opera Chicago, led by Sir Andrew Davis, appearances as Admète in Gluck’s Alceste with Madrid’s Teatro Real, Nicias in Massenet’s Thais with the Los Angeles Opera, Pylade in Iphigénie en Aulide with Theater an der Wien, and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with the Madrid’s Teatro Real and the Festival Aix-en-Provence.

Paul Groves came to national attention as a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 1991. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artists Development Program, Mr. Groves made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1992 as the Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer. Mr. Groves returned to the Met for performances as Camille de Rosillon in their new production of The Merry Widow, opposite Placido Domingo and Frederica von Stade; Ferrando in a new production of Cosi fan tutte; Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress; Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail; Fenton; and Don Ottavio in nationally-televised season-opening performances of Don Giovanni opposite Bryn Terfel and Renee Fleming. In 2006, he created the role of Jianli in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, opposite Placido Domingo, and he returned to the Met in 2008 for further performances of this role. Paul Groves made his debut with San Francisco Opera as Fenton, and he returned in subsequent seasons for performances as Ferrando, Belmonte, and Pylade. His debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago was in 1998 as Nadir in a new production of Les pêcheurs de perles, and audiences in Chicago saw him in later seasons as Tamino, Pylade, and the title role in La Damnation de Faust. Los Angles Opera audiences first saw him in season-opening performances of the title role in La damnation de Faust, and he recently returned for performances as Fritz in a new production of La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein directed by famed Hollywood director Garry Marshall. His company debut with The Washington Opera was in 2006 as Nemorino, and he recently appeared in his home state of Louisiana for his first performances of the title roles in Gounod’s FaustLes contes d’Hoffmann, and Verdi’s Un ballo in Maschera. Mr. Groves has appeared often with Santa Fe Opera, including performances of Offenbach’s Hoffmann and his first performances as Florestan.

He made his debut at La Scala in 1995 as Tamino in the opening night performance of Die Zauberflöte, Riccardo Muti conducting, and he has returned in several roles, including Renaud in Gluck’s Armide and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore – the first American tenor invited to La Scala for this role. Audiences in Paris have seen the tenor often since his debut in 1996 season when he appeared as Tom Rakewell at the Théâtre Musical de Paris, Châtelet in a new Sellers/Salonen production of The Rake’s Progress. He has returned to the Châtelet as Admète in their season-opening production of Alceste, led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and in the title role in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict. Mr. Groves made his debut with the Opéra de Paris as Fenton in a new production of Falstaff, and he soon returned for performances as Tamino, Berlioz’s Faust, Nemorino, Julian in a new production of Charpentier’s Louise, and his role debut as Mozart’s Idomeneo.. The role of Tamino was also the vehicle for his debut at London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He has since returned to perform the role of Pylade in Iphigénie en Tauride opposite Simon Keenlyside and Susan Graham. He has performed often with the Vienna Staatsoper in roles including Camille in a new production of Die lustige Witwe, Carlo in a new production of Linda di Chamounix, Tamino, Nemorino, Don Ottavio, Flamand in Capriccio, Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier. In 2009 the tenor sang his first performances as Massenet’s Werther with Opera National du Rhin, the same season he made his debut in the title role of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex in Japan under the baton of Charles Dutoit. Mr. Groves’ work in Europe also includes his debut as Albert Gregor in Janacek’s The Makropulos Case with Frankfurt Oper. Mr. Groves has appeared frequently with the Salzburg Festival since his debut there in 1995 as Don Ottavio under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, including his portrayal of the title role in a critically-acclaimed new production of La damnation de Faust as well as performances as Pylade, Belmonte, and Tamino in the 2006 Mozart anniversary season in performances led by Riccardo Muti. Mr. Groves made his debut with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1998 as Des Grieux in a new production of Manon and with the Netherlands Opera in 2001 as Bénédict. His debut with the Bayerische Staatsoper was in 1997 as Don Ottavio, and he has returned to Munich for performances as Tamino and as Arturo in a new production of I Puritani, opposite Edita Gruberova.

A gifted musician, Paul Groves is continually in demand for concerts with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. In 2003 Mr. Groves made his debut with the New York Philharmonic as soloist in Berlioz’s Requiem in performances conducted by Charles Dutoit, and he returned for performances of the title roles in La Damnation de Faust, and Candide, opposite Kristin Chenowith. His debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra came also in 2003 in the world premiere of John Harbison’s Requiem conducted by Bernard Haitink in performances in Boston and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and he has returned frequently, including performances in Schönberg’s Gurrelieder and Tippet’s A Child of Our Time as well as La Damnation de Faust, all led by James Levine. Mr. Groves performed Stravinsky’s Rossignol and Berlioz’s Te Deum with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Christoph Eschenbach. The tenor made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in performances as Berlioz’s Faust, led by Christoph von Dohnanyi, and he has since appeared with them in performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony also under the direction of von Dohnanyi at Cleveland’s Severence Hall and at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Other recent performances at Carnegie Hall include Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Sir Charles Mackerras. The tenor made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of works of Mozart and Britten led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and soon returned for performances of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung and Stravinsky’s Les Noces. The works of Benjamin Britten figure prominently in Paul Groves’ concert work and include performances of Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with the Atlanta Symphony and at the Caramoor Festival led by Donald Runnicles, and the composer’s War Requiem in performances with Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the St Louis Symphony, and at the Festival de St. Denis in Paris, led by Kurt Masur. In 2010 added Tippet’s Child of our Time to his repertoire, a work which he performed with his native St Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Paul Groves made his debut with the Munich Philharmonic in performances of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung under the direction of James Levine. He made his debut with the Bayerische Rundfunk in performances of Rossini’s Stabat Mater led by Riccardo Muti and recently returned to Munich for performances of Britten’s St. Nicholas Cantata. He has sung Berlioz’s Te Deum with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra led by Seiji Ozawa, as well as the BBC Symphony led by Sir Colin Davis. He appeared with the BBC Symphony again for Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3 led by Sir Andrew Davis, and in 2003 he appeared with Maestro Davis in a performance of Stravinsky’s Perséphone at the BBC Proms. The tenor’s debut at the Proms was in Haydn’s Die Schöpfung in performances led by Sir Charles Mackerras, and he was first seen with the London Philharmonic as Berlioz’s Faust. In 2005 Mr. Groves sang his first performances of The Dream of Gerontius, led by Mark Elder, at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Mr. Groves made his debut with the Orchestre de Paris in performances of Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied, and he was first seen with L’orchestre National de la Radio France in performances of Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives at the Montpellier Festival. He appeared as soloist in Berlioz’s Requiem with the Orchestre National du Capitôle de Toulouse under the direction of Michel Plasson and returned for performances of the title role in La Damnation de Faust. He was also invited to perform the role with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Valery Gergiev. Mr. Groves’ debut at the Festival de Saint Denis was in performances of Haydn’s Creation, and he appeared in concerts of Mozart’s Requiem at La Scala in a memorial performance for Giuseppe Sinopoli led by Riccardo Muti. He appeared with the Czech Philharmonic in performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis led by Sir Charles Mackerras, and recently performed Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

Paul Groves has appeared frequently in recital throughout the United States and Europe. In 1996 the tenor gave his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall with James Levine accompanying him at the piano, and he has returned twice to Lincoln Center’s prestigious “Art of the Vocal Recital” series accompanied by Malcolm Martineau. He has also appeared in recital at Teatro alla Scala, Amsterdam’s renowned Concertgebouw, Brussels’ Théatre de la Monnaie, and London’s prestigious Wigmore Hall.

In addition to his several recordings with Maestro Levine, Paul Groves’ performances in the Salzburg Festival’s productions of Die Zauberflöte and La damnation de Faust were recorded for release on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon and Naxos Records, respectively. He recently recorded Roger Water’s new opera Ça Ira opposite Bryn Terfel for SONY Classics as well as Ravel cantatas with Michel Plasson for EMI Classics. He can be heard as Tebaldo in Teldec Classic’s recording of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, led by Donald Runnicles. He also recorded the role of Belmonte in a video and audio recording of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, filmed in Istanbul and led by Sir Charles Mackerras, for the Telarc label. Mr. Groves’ performances as Admète in Alceste at London’s Barbican Centre were recorded for CD and DVD on the Philips Classics label. In 2002 Paul Groves made his debut at the Saito Kinen Festival in performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, recorded on DVD for Philips Classics. In 2003 Mr. Groves completed a solo recording of songs by Henri Duparc for Naxos Records. In 2004 Mr. Groves was invited to perform at the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in front of a live national television audience.

 

Fidelio and Aureliano: Georgia Jarmon

Georgia Jarman, soprano  Marzelline

Following a series of high-profile debuts throughout the United States and Europe, Georgia Jarman continues to impress in both the lyric coloratura and bel canto repertoire. Recent successes have included her highly acclaimed performances as Roxana in Kasper Holten’s new production of Krol Roger under Antonio Pappano, marking her Covent Garden debut, Gilda (Rigoletto) in her Santa Fe Festival debut and all four heroines in Richard Jones’ production of The Tales of Hoffmann for English National Opera.

A sought-after artist in bel canto repertoire, she has made numerous appearances at the Caramoor Music Festival under Will Crutchfield with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s including, most recently, her acclaimed role debut as Gilda (Rigoletto), as well as Amenaide (Tancredi) alongside Ewa Podles, Norina (Don Pasquale) and Amina (La sonnambula). Other bel canto roles include Marie (La fille du regiment) and Giulietta (I capuleti e i montecchi) for Florentine Opera, Mathilde (Guillaume Tell) at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw and her first Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor) for Atlanta Opera.

This season Georgia makes her debut as Marguerite (Faust) with the Macau International Music Festival as well as returning to the Caramoor Festival for performances as Zenobia in Rossini’s rarely performed Aureliano in Palmira. In concert Georgia makes her debut with the Dutch National Radio Philharmonic in Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater under Markus Stenz. Notable previous successes include Maria Stuarda for Washington Concert Opera, Manon at Malmö Opera, and the roles of Violetta (La traviata), Mimi (La bohème), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Micaela (Carmen) and Nedda (Pagliacci) – which have led to invitations from Den Nye Opera, New Orleans Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Palm Beach Opera.

Building an increasing reputation in more contemporary repertoire, Georgia Jarman has recently added the role of Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) for Grange Park Opera, as well as the exacting role of Madame Mao (Nixon in China) for Cincinnati Opera and Eurydice in Philip Glass’ Orphée for Portland Opera (recorded on the Orange Mountain Music label).

 

Fidelio: Kristinn Sigmundsson

Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass  Rocco

Lauded for his portrayal of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier that he “dealt in revelations,” the Financial Times further praises Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson. “His tone dark and his dynamic range broad, he exuded raw power, crusty lust and comic bravado, all reinforced by a trace of gravitas.” In the 2015-16 season, he joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for Hunding in excerpts of Die Walküre in Dallas an on tour to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Vienna, Basel, and Madrid. He also sings Melchthal in Guillaume Tell, Rocco in Fidelio at the Caramoor Music Festival, and the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos at the Staatsoper Hamburg and Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Íslenska óperan. In addition, his summer performances include returns to the Cincinnati May Festival for the final season of Music Director James Conlon, in which he will sing Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and the Grant Park Music Festival for Méphistophélès in La damnation de Faust. Future seasons include performances at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Staatsoper Hamburg, and with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Last season, he joined Los Angeles Opera for its trilogy of Beaumarchais operas as he sang Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Louis XVI in Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, and Doctor Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro. He also sang King Philip in Don Carlo with Íslenska óperan and returned to both the Ravinia Festival as Daland in Der fliegende Holländer and the Cincinnati May Festival for Haydn’s Creation.

As one of the world’s most sought after basses, Mr. Sigmundsson has sung nearly his entire repertoire with the Opéra National de Paris. His performances at the Metropolitan Opera include Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Hundig in Die Walküre, Rocco in Fidelio, Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, and Vodnik in Rusalka. He has sung leading roles regularly with the Staatsoper Wien, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Semperoper Dresden, where his most recent performances include Méphistophélès in La damnation de Faust. Other recent engagements include Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni in Munich, Berlin, and New York; Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, König Heinrich in Lohengrin and Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Berlin; Creonte in Medea in Salzburg; Gurnemanz in Parisifal in Cologne and Florence; Zaccaria in Nabucco in Copenhagen, King Heinrich in Lohengin in Madrid San Fancisco, Los Angeles, and with the Bayerische Staatsoper both in Munich and on tour to Japan; King Marke in Tristan und Isolde in Santiago, Dallas, and Berlin; Hunding in Die Walküre in Naples, Venice, and Köln; Landgraf in Tannhäuser in Geneva, Amsterdam, and Tokyo; Méphistophélès in La damnation de Faust, König Marke in Tristan und Isolde, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni, and Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier in San Francisco and Florence; König Heinrich in Lohengrin, and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Munich; Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Naples, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte in Houston, San Francisco, Toulouse, and Santiago; and Walter in concert performances of Luisa Miller in Cincinnati.

His concert performances include collaborations with many of the world’s leading conductors including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, James Conlon, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, Charles Mackerras, Christoph von Dohnányi, Jeffrey Tate, Christoph Eschenbach, Ivor Bolton, and Marc Minkowski. He recently joined the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra on tour at Avery Fisher Hall for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and sang Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the Hamburger Symphoniker, Schumann’s Geburtstag at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, and Dvořák’s Requiem with the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale. Among his discography are commercial recordings of Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte with Arnold Östman (Decca) and Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten (Deutsche Grammophon). With Frans Brueggen he has recorded both Bach’s St. John Passion and the St. Matthew Passion (Phillips). He has recorded Schumann’s Faustszenen with Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi) and Fidelio with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis.

In the early part of his career he performed principally in his native Iceland before joining the Hessische Staatstheater in Wiesbaden. His initial training was as a biologist and he taught for a few years before becoming a singer, studying first at the Reykjavik Academy of Singing and then at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria.

 

Fidelio and Aureliano: Andrew Owens

Andrew Owens, tenor  Jaquino

Winner of the Zarzuela prize at the 2015 Francisco Viñas International Singing Competition, American tenor Andrew Owens has quickly built a reputation as one of the most promising singers of his generation, exhibiting a beautiful Italianate timbre, soaring top notes, and effortless agility.

Andrew Owens’ 2015-2016 season begins with his company and role debut with Florida Grand Opera as Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, a role he will reprise later in the season for his company debut with North Carolina Opera under the baton of Timothy Myers. He will make his company and role debut with Seattle Opera as the Earl of Leicester in a new production of Maria Stuarda directed by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Carlo Montanaro. Mr. Owens also joins Dayton Opera in conjunction with the Dayton Philharmonic for a double bill performance, pairing the world premiere of The Book Collector, composed by Stella Sung with a libretto by Ernest Hilbert, with Orff’s Carmina Burana. Highlights of Mr. Owens’ orchestral engagements this season include his debut with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany for performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

In the 2014-2015 season, Mr. Owens returned to the Theater an der Wien main stage as Chevalier Léon in Milhaud’s La mere coupable. He also debuted at Theater Magdeburg as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Camille de Rosillion in Die lustige Witwe. The operatic season concluded with his professional lead debut in the US as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola with Opera Saratoga and with Greensboro Opera. On the concert stage, Mr. Owens appeared as the tenor soloist in The Genius of Mozart at the National Concert Hall, Dublin with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Owens is a recent graduate of the Junges Ensemble at the Theater an der Wien, where he performed Rodolfo in La bohème, Edoardo Milfort in La cambiale di matrimonio, Venditore di canzonette in Il Trittico, Der Pfeifer des Grafen in Mathis der Maler, Gérard in Le comte Ory, Erster Gefangener in Fidelio, Uldino in Attila, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola, Tito in La clemenza di Tito (Kammeroper), Scitalce in Vinci’s Semiramide, Gastone in La Traviata, and Barbarigo in I due Foscari opposite Plácido Domingo. In concert at the Theater an der Wien, he appeared as Giove in Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo, a rarely performed cantata by Rossini, opposite Lawrence Brownlee, as well as performed the tenor solos in Bach’s Mass in B minor at the Hofburgkapelle.

At the Bayerische Staatsoper as part of the Opernstudio, Mr. Owens appeared as Wilhelm in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Sigurd in Sigurd der Drachentöter, and Mücke/Hahn/Specht in Das schlaue Füchslein. He has covered Ferrando in Così fan tutte at Salzburg Festival; Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Leon in Pasatieri’s Signor Deluso and Pluto in Orpheus in the Underworld at Central City Opera. He has also appeared as Borsa in Rigoletto at Virginia Opera. Role studies include Tebaldo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Elvino in La sonnambula, Tonio in La fille du Régiment, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Pêcheur in Guillaume Tell, Lindoro in L’italiana in Algeri, Ein Sänger in Der Rosenkavalier, Fenton in Falstaff, and Cassio in Otello.

Concert and symphonic engagements of past seasons include the tenor soloist in Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust with the Cleveland Orchestra, Lukas in Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten, and First Japanese Envoy in Le Rossignol at the Salzburg Festival, as well as appearances in a Rossini gala concert at the Munich Opera Festival. He has also performed Don Ottavio in a concert version of Don Giovanni with the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with The Annapolis Chorale, as well as appearances with the Greensboro Symphony and Greensboro Oratorio Society. He made his New York City recital debut with the New York Festival of Song in a program entitled Spanish Gold: Songs of the Iberian Peninsula at Merkin Hall.

Mr. Owens has had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the world’s most prestigious conductors and directors including James Conlon, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Bertrand de Billy, Franz Welser-Möst, Ari Pelto, Martin André, Christopher Larkin, George Manahan, Sian Edwards, Moshé Leiser, Patrice Caurier, Peter Konwitschny, Richard Jones, Keith Warner, David Bösch, and Riccardo Frizza.

Mr. Owens is an award recipient from the Marilyn Horne Foundation, won 1st place and honors at the Mario Lanza Competition for Tenors in New York City and Philadelphia, respectively, and is the recipient of the Iris Henwood Richards Apprentice Artist Award at Central City Opera. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he appeared as Laurie in Little Women and the Maryland Opera Studio, where he sang Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore and as A Man with Old Luggage in Postcard from Morocco. Other programs include the Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project and Music Academy of the West Voice Program. Mr. Owens is a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and currently resides in Vienna.

 

Fidelio: Alfred Walker

Alfred Walker, bass-baritone  Don Pizarro

Lauded by Opera News for his “inky bass-baritone and clear projection seemed ideally suited to the role, capturing this isolated man’s passion with telling grief,” Alfred Walker joins Oper Köln for one of his most oft-performed roles, the title role of Der fliegende Holländer and the Komische Opera Berlin as the Four Villains in Kosky’s new production of Les contes d’Hoffmann. He returns returns to Seattle Opera for further performances of Der fliegende Holländer and Utah Opera for Amonasro in Aida. He also joins the New Japan Philharmonic for Bluebeard in Bluebeard’s Castle and the Caramoor Music Festival as Pizarro in Fidelio and sings Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Verdi’s Requiem with the Boston Philharmonic. In future seasons, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera and makes debuts with the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and Sydney Symphony. Last season, he again returned to the title role of Der fliegende Holländer with Théâtre de Caen and Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg as well as to the Grant Park Music Festival for Elgar’s The Kingdom. He also sang the Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Den Norske Opera and returned to his home state for Verdi’s Requiem with the Louisiana Philharmonic and to the Metropolitan Opera for its production of Bluebeard’s Castle.

The bass-baritone recently triumphed as the title role in Der fliegende Holländer at Theater Basel and returned to the company for his first performances of both Amfortas in Parsifal and Amonasro in Aida. Other recent performances include Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde at Angers Nantes Opera and Opéra de Dijon, the title role of Der fliegende Holländer with Boston Lyric Opera and the Wagner Geneva Festival, Creonte in Medea with the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy, and Il Prologo in Gnecchi’s Cassandra with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. His celebrated characterization of Orest in Elektra has been seen at Teatro alla Scala, Seattle Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Spain’s San Sebastián Festival and he received great acclaim for performances of Allazim in the Peter Sellars’ production of Zaide at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Wiener Festwochen, London’s Barbican Center, and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. He sang Telramund in concert performances of Lohengrin in Oviedo, Spain under the baton of Semyon Bychkov and later joined the conductor and the WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln for Lodovico in Otello. In lesser-known repertoire, he sang Kunrad in Feuersnot with the American Symphony Orchestra and König Karl in Schubert’s Fierrabras at the Bard Music Festival.

Additional highlights of recent seasons include his Los Angeles Opera debut as Porgy in Porgy and Bess; title role of Don Quichotte, Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Seattle Opera and Tulsa Opera; Méphistophélès in Faust also with Tulsa Opera; Achilla in Giulio Cesare and Colline in La bohème with San Diego Opera, Atlanta Opera, and New Orleans Opera; Leporello in Don Giovanni with Opera North; Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Palm Beach Opera, Banquo in Macbeth with Minnesota Opera; Donner in Das Rheingold with New Orleans Opera; and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte with Minnesota Opera and Utah Opera. Also a frequent presence on the Metropolitan Opera stage, he recently returned to the famed house for Parsi Rustomji in its first presentation Satyagraha in addition to joining the company for its productions of Il trovatoreElektraLe nozze di FigaroRoméo et JulietteDon GiovanniSamson et DalilaPelléas et MélisandeLes Troyens, and L’enfant et les sortilèges.

Mr. Walker is an equally versatile concert artist. He has sung Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Verdi’s Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Robert Spano as well as with the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Utah Symphony, and at the Sun Valley Music Festival. He has joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Rossini’s Stabat Mater as well as previously for Porgy in Porgy and Bess in performances conducted by Bramwell Tovey at Tanglewood and in Boston, the Grant Park Music Festival for Shostakovich’s The Execution of Stepan Razin, the Handel and Haydn Society for Mozart’s Requiem, American Symphony Orchestra in Alice Tully Hall for Mahler’s Kindertoten-Lieder and Rückert-Lieder, and Los Angeles Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony Orchestra for Porgy in a concert performance of Porgy and Bess. Other concert performances include his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis in Beatrice et Benedict; Verdi’s Requiem with Marin Alsop conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, at Spoleto Festival U.S.A, and with the Greensboro Symphony and Reno Philharmonic; performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall; and a concert performance of Strauss’ Salome at the Tanglewood Festival with Seiji Ozawa. He has also presented recitals at the Manchester Music Festival. His recording credits include another collaboration with Semyon Bychov and the WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln for Orest in Elektra on the Hybrid label as well as performances on Placido Domingo’s CD of Verdi tenor arias for Deutsche Grammophon.

A graduate of Dillard University, Loyola University, and the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Program, the New Orleans native is the recipient of awards from the George London Foundation, Palm Beach Opera Competition, Houston Opera Studio’s Eleanor McCollum Competition, and the Sullivan Foundation career grant.

About Fidelio

Synopsis
Act I: The courtyard of the prison

Jaquino is watching Marzelline iron. When he tries to strike up a conversation, she puts him off. Marzelline sympathizes with Jaquino but can think only of her love for ‘Fidelio.’ They are interrupted by a knock at the door. When Jaquino returns to continue his suit she answers with a firm ‘No!’

Left alone, Marzelline dreams of her future happiness with Fidelio. Rocco enters, looking for Fidelio, just as ‘he’ returns, struggling with heavy, newly repaired chains, from a trip to the blacksmith. He also brings dispatches for Pizarro. Rocco praises him for his diligence and promises that his assistant will soon be rewarded, hinting he may marry Marzelline.

In a quartet, the characters sing of their feelings (Marzelline thinks of her future happiness, Leonore is apprehensive of the danger she is in, Jaquino is jealous and Rocco thinks of the happiness of the young ‘couple’). Rocco announces that Fidelio and Marzelline can be married as soon as Pizarro leaves for Seville, then sings of the happiness money brings. Fidelio tells him married love is better than gold. She begs to be allowed to help him in caring for the prisoners in the dungeons. Although he has had orders that no one else is to go to the cells, he admits he needs help. He agrees to let her accompany him to all but one very secret dungeon. There is a prisoner there that cannot last much longer. Leonore guesses he must be her husband. Marzelline begs her ‘fiancé’ not to go to the dungeons, Leonore states her determination to go, and Rocco signifies his acceptance of her help.

The sound of a march announces Pizarro’s arrival. He is handed dispatches which warn him that the government is sending Don Fernando to investigate stories of abuse at the prison. (Fernando is a friend of Florestan’s but believes him dead.) Pizarro decides Florestan must die at once. He orders that trumpeters be posted to warn him of Fernando’s arrival, then flatters Rocco and offers him money to kill the special prisoner. When Rocco demurs, Pizarro decides to do the act himself and orders the jailer to dig a grave in a ruined cistern for the corpse. Leonore has overheard and resolves to save the prisoner.

Jaquino is still pursuing Marzelline, but Rocco tells him she will marry ‘Fidelio.’ In turn, Leonore and Marzelline beg Rocco to allow the prisoners to come up into the courtyard for some fresh air. He agrees but only for the prisoners in the upper cells.

As Leonore searches the face of each emerging prisoner, hoping to find her husband, the prisoners rejoice in the sunlight. Rocco has asked Pizarro’s permission for Marzelline and ‘Fidelio’ to marry, and it has been granted. The jailer will also be allowed to take his helper with him into the dungeons where they must dig a grave. At her anxious question, he admits the man is not yet dead; Pizarro is to kill him. She asks if they could not set him free, but Rocco says that is impossible.

Pizarro enters, raging that the prisoners have been let out. Rocco explains it was to celebrate the king’s name-day. Pizarro orders them back to their cells. and sadly, they say farewell to the sun. As they leave, Rocco and Leonore start their descent to the dungeon.

Act II
Scene 1: Florestan’s dungeon

Alone in the darkness, a chained Florestan sings of his despair. He does not complain, he has done his duty by speaking up, even if it has led to his imprisonment. In his delirium, he sees a vision of Leonore leading him to heaven, then sinks down as Rocco and Leonore descend into the cell. Leonore tries unsuccessfully to see the prisoner’s face. As she and Rocco start to dig in anticipation of Pizarro’s arrival, Leonore resolves to save the prisoner whomever he is.

When Florestan wakes and demands the name of the prison’s governor, Leonore recognizes him. When he is told Pizarro’s name, he begs Rocco to send a message to a certain Leonore Florestani in Seville, saying her husband is lying in chains. Rocco responds that is impossible but, when asked for some water, tells his helper to give the prisoner some wine. As Florestan thanks ‘Fidelio.’ she manages to give him a little bread. The prisoner realizes that ‘the boy’ and Rocco are moved by his plight. As Rocco whistles to signal Pizarro, Florestan wonders if he shall ever see Leonore again.

Pizarro arrives, disguising his voice as he orders ‘the boy’ to leave. Instead she hides. Gloatingly, Pizarro reveals himself to Florestan and draws a dagger to stab him. Leonore throws herself between them announcing: “First you must stab this breast.” When Pizarro pushes her away, she draws a pistol: “First kill his wife!” At this dramatic moment, a trumpet sounds announcing the arrival of Don Fernando. As Pizarro and Rocco stand dumbfounded, Florestan and Leonore embrace, and Jaquino and some soldiers enter to announce the arrival of the minister. Pizarro curses, and Rocco, glad to be free of the oppressor, wonders about his own fate. Leonore and Florestan sing of their joy.

Scene 2. The castle courtyard

The castle guards march in, followed by Don Fernando and Pizarro. Jaquino and Marzelline lead in the prisoners, and Don Fernando, on orders of the king, frees them all. Rocco brings in Florestan and Leonore, asking mercy for them also. As a stunned Don Fernando recognizes his old friend whom he had thought dead, Rocco tells how Leonore has come to the prison disguised as a boy. The villain Pizarro is led away, the crowd (including many townspeople) calls for his punishment, and Don Fernando gives Leonore the privilege of removing Florestan’s chains. All join in a paean to married love.

 

A Note from the Director of Opera at Caramoor

Ludwig van Beethoven was as great a master of musical drama as the world has seen, but he was fundamentally unsuited to opera, and composed only one. His great model and teacher Haydn was similarly unsuited, for essentially the same reason, even though he wrote many. The reason is that their sense of the moment-to-moment inner drama of musical tension and release, affirmation and contradiction, far surpassed their feel for the longer, slower arc of a theatrical evening. The vitality of their gestures, their sudden turnabouts, their puzzling surprises lay awkwardly over the formal structures of opera as it existed in their day: sometimes they can say so much in the first page of a formal piece that it seems almost a burden to work through its obligatory sections to the end. (Mozart, the link between Haydn and Beethoven in so many ways, had an easier time in the theater partly because he was not a particularly dramatic composer at the start. His youthful works are well-proportioned and delightful, but predictable; he found his way to surprise and disruption through his work in the opera-house, so the details and the whole grew hand-in-hand for him.)

Haydn’s many operas never established themselves beyond his home base in Esterhaza, and have not done so even in our revival-friendly age. Beethoven’s sole essay, in contrast, quickly became a cornerstone of the repertory, and continues today to be on the short list of truly essential operas. The difference can be ascribed to the sheer inspiration and emotional force of Fidelio’s score. As musical theater it may remain awkward in more than a few ways, but as dramatic expression it has a depth, power, and exaltation that stand alone, and make any surface weaknesses irrelevant. The intensity of idealism the composer projects onto his heroic couple, Leonore and Florestan; the heart-gripping danger of a rescue mission that hangs by a thread at the last possible moment; the pure jubilation at Good’s victory over Evil – all these bring out the fullest response in the composer of the Waldstein sonata, the Fifth Symphony, and the Emperor Concerto. The final ensemble is an ecstasy of positive emotion unprecedented in its sweep and energy when Beethoven wrote it, and matched since then only by Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and Wagner’s Meistersinger and Tristan.

The well-known story of Beethoven’s struggles with the score underline the challenges suggested above. It began life when the 32-year-old composer signed a contract with Emanuel Schikaneder (the impresario who had commissioned Mozart’s Magic Flute, also writing the libretto and playing the role of Papageno). This was to have been Vestas Feuer, a libretto by Schikaneder along lines similar to those of Spontini’s La vestale. Beethoven composed some music for it and then became dissatisfied with the story; he was drawn instead to the subject of a 1798 opera by Paer, Leonora, and in 1804 began work on a German adaptation of the story that he called Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe (“Leonore, or The Triumph of Conjugal Love”).

Its title had already mutated to Fidelio by the time the work reached the stage in 1805 (Schikaneder had in the meantime been dismissed from his post as director of the theater). This was a three-act opera of enormous difficulty, and although Beethoven’s established reputation as Vienna’s leading instrumental composer ensured respectful attention, it was not considered a success. A version trimmed to two acts was offered the following year, but nearly a decade later the composer made a far more radical revision, now for the Kärtnertor Theater that would dominate Vienna’s operatic life for generations to come, producing the score that finally won audience acceptance and that we know today. By tradition, modern writers refer to the first two versions by Beethoven’s original title of Leonore (the 1806 score was performed at Caramoor under John Nelson in 1989), and reserve Fidelio for the opera we know.

Beethoven’s editing job was bold to the point of recklessness, but also inspired. How severely we would now criticize anyone who hacked out half the exposition of a sonata form, leaving it to be heard as “new” in the recapitulation! Yet that is exactly what Beethoven, master of the sonata, did to the allegro of Leonore’s big aria. Here and elsewhere he pruned ruthlessly, inserted new ideas, threw out entire pieces, and – not always to the comfort of the singers – made the whole piece, bar by bar, less “operatic” and more “Beethovenian.” (Our pre-opera presentation, “Beethoven’s Wrestling Match with Opera,” gives details and side-by-side comparisons of this fascinating process.) Ever since the success of 1814, the great German dramatic singers – eventually, the stars of Wagner – have taken their turns at the leading roles, and the great symphonic conductors have made some of their strongest opera-house appearances in this mighty score.

What is such a score doing in a Festival program devoted to bel canto opera? In fact there are many good reasons. Beethoven had the same materials – essentially Italian ones – to draw on at the dawn of the 19th century as his Italian contemporaries. Rossini – whose Aureliano in Palmira debuted at La Scala in the same season as the revised Fidelio – eventually wove those into a personal style that was dominant for his successors, but that had not yet happened; he and Beethoven were both experimenting in the same laboratory, and giving their personal interpretation of the same forms of overture, aria, duet, ensemble, and finale. In hindsight, Fidelio is easily seen as “proto-Wagner,” but Pablo Heras-Casado, our guest conductor for the Caramoor production, has extensive experience in opera generally and bel canto in particular, and he sees it just as strongly in relation to its precedents in Mozart, Paer, and their generation.

If there is anything at all to criticize in Fidelio it is the lingering presence of Beethoven’s struggle. There is a certain sense of jolt when the Mozartean comic-opera ambience of the opening scenes is shattered by the high-voltage Romantic melodrama that erupts when Fidelio’s mission gets underway in earnest. The characters are not exactly fleshed out: we know that Florestan is some kind of political prisoner, but learn nothing about his ideals and goals, or what had delivered him into his enemy’s hands. The extensive spoken dialogue remains a problem; it occasionally includes interesting details, but the historical experience of opera has taught that we do not believe strongly in details except to the extent the composer has embodied them in music. (The “through-composed” opera was just around the corner in Germany, and a Beethoven active more regularly in the theater would surely have hastened its arrival.) But under the spell of Beethoven’s own idealism and volcanic musical power, none of this matters.

Beethoven had, to say the least, a complicated relationship with womankind. He adored various unavailable women from afar, maybe a few from nearer (but still at the safe distance of unavailability). He had physical relations with women we would now call “sex workers” and, it seems, perhaps with some wives or girlfriends of his drinking buddies. But he seems never to have sustained intimate emotional contact with any actual woman, while dreaming of it and longing for it all his life. In this he was perhaps simply a more pronounced example of a tendency shared by many great creators: to live his live more fully in his works than he could manage to do in his everyday existence. One thing he knew he hated: Così fan tutte, in which his otherwise adored Mozart seems to look indulgently, even sympathetically, on the idea of female infidelity. In a way, Fidelio is Beethoven’s indignant repudiation of Così, and Leonore’s great aria a refutation of Fiordiligi’s “Per pietà, ben mio, perdona.” Both are in E major with horn obbligatos and flights of difficult virtuosity at the end. Fiordiligi begs pardon for her weakness; Leonora prays for strength, and finds it. Beethoven here gives life to his ideal – a woman so faithful that she will risk her life for her husband, and made so strong by her faith that she can defeat all the men arrayed against her. From one point of view, Fiordiligi is the true dramatic character here; she experiences conflict, makes choices, critiques herself, evolves. Leonore is superhuman, knows no doubt, has within herself the answer to all possible choices. But Beethoven’s music is superhuman as well – so much so that it transcends the stock drama to touch humanity after all, and profoundly. It is hard to imagine life without some kind of aspiration to transcend human frailty, or to imagine opera without Fidelio.

Will Crutchfield, Director of Opera at Caramoor