Fidelio, Opera by Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven left us a single opera, but it was enough to guarantee the famous composer lasting recognition in the genre. Fidelio tells the story of a brave and faithful wife who is ready to go to any length to defend her husband from political persecution. The topics of freedom and commitment to a just cause were near and dear to Beethoven’s world view, and his attitude can be heard clearly through his inspired score. Fidelio debuted at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on 20 November 1805 under the title Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe (Leonore, or The Triumph of Marital Love in English). The opera went through several iterations in the following years, and its final version – the proper Fidelio we know and love today – is coming to Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice this season.
1805’s Leonore was a three-act opera based on the libretto of Joseph Sonnleithner. French-occupied Vienna gave it a lukewarm reception, which prompted Beethoven to revise and abridge it with the help of Stephan von Breuning. This version of Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe held up for a few years until the ultimate revision, titled Fidelio and based on the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke, had its inaugural performance at Kärntnertortheater in Vienna and captured audiences’ hearts on 23 May 1814. Beethoven was finally satisfied with his singular contribution to the opera genre, and so were audiences for generations to come.
Fidelio’s classic love story unfolds against the background of political struggle. Leonore’s husband Florestan is a political prisoner awaiting his execution. Through clever disguise and remarkable self-control and wits, the faithful wife manages to orchestrate her beloved’s escape. The triumph of marital love is complete with some of Beethoven’s finest melodies, including the famous Prisoner’s Chorus as well as the climactic final escape scene. Fidelio at Gran Teatro La Fenice tells a classic story of love, devotion and freedom.