[Met Performance] CID:255140
Fidelio {143} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/2/1978.

(Debuts: Siegmund Nimsgern, Arleen Augér
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
October 2, 1978


FIDELIO {143}
Beethoven-Sonnleithner/Breuning/Treitschke

Leonore.................Hildegard Behrens
Florestan...............James King
Don Pizarro.............Siegmund Nimsgern [Debut]
Rocco...................Kurt Moll
Marzelline..............Arleen Augér [Debut]
Jaquino.................James Atherton
Don Fernando............Bernd Weikl
First Prisoner..........John Carpenter
Second Prisoner.........Arthur Thompson

Conductor...............Karl Böhm

Production..............Otto Schenk
Stage Director..........Bodo Igesz
Designer................Boris Aronson
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Fidelio received seven performances this season.

Review of Peter Wynne in unnamed syndicated newspaper

After a season's absence, Beethoven's "Fidelio" returned to the Metropolitan Opera in fine fettle last night, with conductor Karl Boehm setting a heady pace for a team of superlative singers.

When Boehm, a favorite with Met audiences, mounted the podium, he was given a welcoming ovation that most artists would be glad to have at the farewell end of an evening. And Boehm more than repaid the compliment by leading a performance that was as refined and beautiful as it was charged with energy.

The soloists were outstanding, yet there were standouts among them, including several singers who were essaying their roles for the first time at the Met or were making their Met debuts.

Arleen Auger, one of the debutantes, sang charmingly as Marzelline, the daughter of the jailer, Rocco. Her soprano is warm and lilting, with all the girlish quality one could hope for in the part.

First Behrens Leonore at Met

As her father, Rocco, bass Kurt Moll was singing his first new assignment at the Met since his warmly received debut as the Landgrave in "Tannhäuser" which opened the 1978-79 season. A sturdily built man with commanding presence, he has the voice to match - powerful, rich, and dark.

And there was soprano Hildegard Behrens, singing her first Met Leonore with a voice of modest size but so clearly focused that she was able to play with ease a role of heroic proportions. Leonore, the heroine of the opera, disguises herself as the youth Fidelio to gain access to the prison confining her husband, Florestan, whom she ultimately rescues.

Tenor James King took the role of Florestan - two years a prisoner, as the opera opens, in the dungeon of the cruel Don Pizarro. He sang with power and taste.

Accuracy and verve

Making his debut as Don Pizzaro, the tyrannical governor of the prison, was Siegmund Nimsgern, who proved the evening's sole disappointment. As a
baritone singing a role usually given to a bass, he was out of his depth, lacking the power to cut through the orchestra and give his characterization any vocal authority.

Still, as important as the soloists might be, some of "Fidelio"'s grandest moments come in the trio, quartets, and choral ensembles. These were performed last night with accuracy and verve one seldom hears. For that one must credit conductor Boehm, who also elicited a performance of the highest order from the orchestra.

The Met, as do many other opera houses, stands by the tradition of inserting the "Leonore" No. 3 Overture in the break between the first and second scenes of Act 2. Boehm's reading of the "Leonore" was masterful, marked by clarity of orchestral voices and dynamics that ranged from a whisper to near roar. It was the kind of elegant yet dramatic reading that no doubt left more the a few listeners a bit moist eyed.

Original platform at center

As productions go, ""Fidelio," designed by Boris Aronson, is not among the Met's handsomest, but then scenes set in and around a prison offer few visual opportunities for visual splendor.

The setting is basically a semicircle of walls pierced by barred windows and a grated portcullis. At center is a large, raked, octagonal platform, which is the site of most of the significant action, Additional set pieces are erected on the platform as the action shifts from outside the jailer's lodge to the prison courtyard to the dungeon, and then once more to the courtyard.

Aronson has carried through all the scenes a visual metaphor of containment. The walls are not made to look like stone, but are roughly plastered, with bars and grilles set into the plaster. Everything seems fettered and areas, except those needed for stage action, are kept in relative gloom.

However, in the finale, after Florestan and his fellow prisoners have been freed, the stage is bathed with light and what in darkness had seemed dank cells are revealed as open arches. The walls become quite translucent. Even the blackest dungeon, Aronson seems to say, cannot withstand the light of human courage.



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