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The trinity of librettists was sufficiently harried by the exacting composer to produce eventually a drama of taut concentration and searing power; Rolf Liebermann as artistic director has seen to it that the three Hamburg sets are convincingly real yet undistracting. Lucia Popp's delightful Marcellina is busy sewing in the prison courtyard while trying to keep the Jacquino of Erwin Wohlfahrt at bay [watch and listen -- chapter 2, 6:12-7:22]. At the start of the astonishing canon quartet the camera concentrates hard on Anja Silja as Leonora; so Marcellina has every chance to realise that in the end Jacquino might make a more satisfactory husband [watch and listen -- chapter 5, 16:00-18:16]. But for now she remains an admirable Fidelio.

Theo Adam as Don Pizarro. DVD screenshot © 2007 Arthaus Musik GmbH
Theo Adam as Don Pizarro. DVD screenshot © 2007 Arthaus Musik GmbH

Beethoven could not know how many Don Pizarros would plague the world since the dismal days of the French Revolution. Democracies throw them up as plentifully as the most bloodthirsty tyranny, vengeful petty bureaucrats with sufficient power to turn their heads. The twentieth century spawned them almost to outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore, and its successor promises to do better still. Beethoven leaves us in no doubt how he loathes such specimens of inhumanity, and Theo Adam manages to curdle our blood with the ferocious passion of his monomania. His final exit, though, is typically hangdog but unrepentant [watch and listen -- chapter 10, 30:45-31:49]. For the moment he has no intention of resigning.

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Copyright © 31 July 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK


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