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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beethoven for Breakfast

Things have been a little quiet as your blogger is under the weather. But in the meantime, let us end the silence with the singing of more joyful tones. This is the Prisoners' Chorus from Act I of Beethoven's Fidelio, filmed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2000. This excellent production, available on DVD, stars Karita Mattila in the title role and Ben Heppner as Florestan.

Fidelio is the story of a husband, wrongfully imprisoned by his political enemy. His wife dresses up as a man, gets a job at the prison, and rescues him from the dungeon where he is chained and scheduled to be executed. Although it remains Beethoven's sole excursion into opera, it contains some of his most inspirational music.

There have been a number of recordings of this opera in the catalogue. But the stand-out (and the standard) is the set conducted by Otto Klemperer on EMI. In addition to Herr Klemperer's two-fisted approach to Beethoven. The man knew how to bring the weight of Beethoven's best music to the fore, and led it with inspiration.

This EMI set was made at a height in the recording industry, and has an excellent cast. It is anchored by Christa Ludwig in the title role and the superb Jon Vickers as Florestan. In sheer luxury casting, the great bass Gottlob Frick sings the fatherly role of Rocco, and Walter Berry grows himself an impressive mustache in order to twirl it as the villain Pizarro.

This is one case where a clear recommendation of one recording is so far ahead of the rest of the pack that it is the one to own. ater recordings of the opera have their merits, but are often let down by a sub-par performance in one of the key roles.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.