[Met Performance] CID:303280
Fidelio {181} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/31/1991.

(Debuts: Hartmut Welker, Helen Donath, Andreas Schmidt
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 31, 1991


FIDELIO {181}
Beethoven-Sonnleithner/Breuning/Treitschke

Leonore.................Elizabeth Connell
Florestan...............Gary Lakes
Don Pizarro.............Hartmut Welker [Debut]
Rocco...................Kurt Moll
Marzelline..............Helen Donath [Debut]
Jaquino.................Donald Kaasch
Don Fernando............Andreas Schmidt [Debut]
First Prisoner..........Michael Forest
Second Prisoner.........James Courtney

Conductor...............Christof Perick

Production..............Otto Schenk
Stage Director..........Bruce Donnell
Designer................Boris Aronson
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Fidelio received six performances this season.

Review of Tim Page in Newsday

A Fireless Return of 'Fidelio' at the Met

Ludwig von Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio," returned to the Metropolitan Opera House Thursday night, in a performance that steadfastly refused to catch fire. In truth, the work is fairly flame-retardant to begin with, for all of its many felicities. Beethoven labored on "Fidelio" for most of a decade, and it sounds that way. There is a studied, measured quality to its progression and a near-complete absence of dramatic urgency. "Fidelio" is one of those operas ("Samson et Dalila" is another) that can be presented in concert form with little diminishment, for the merits of the work are chiefly musical.

Unfortunately, the Met's musical execution was, for the most part, only so-so, and the representation of the drama was downright drab. Otto Schenk's 20- year-old production now seems clichéd and dingy, with its succession of grays and abstracted slabs of junk metal; the director learned a lot on the way to his triumphant "Ring," which is now one of the jewels in the Met repertory.

Christof Perick's conducting, while competent, never rose above the workman-like; it was actually possible to listen unmoved to the prisoner's chorus. Elizabeth Connell was an earnest but uninspiring Leonore: she sang with musicianship and intelligence and got off a few strong high notes, but her voice has neither the heft nor the luster that one wants from this particular part, and her acting was unprepossessing. As Florestan, Gary Lakes sounded distinctly parched and his high notes bordered on the scattershot. Hartmut Welker, in his Met debut as Don Pizarro, has a notably harsh bass voice; moreover, he tended toward what Schoenberg might have called "shout-singing," and his characterization seemed to derive from the standardized "evil Hun" portrayal that has been with us since the days of Erich von Stroheim.

There were elements to admire. Bass Kurt Moll is a wonderful artist and brings an elegance and empathy to every role he sings (in this case, the jailer Rocco). Helen Donath, well-known to record collectors for the better part of two decades, made the first Met appearance of her career and the sweetness and warmth she brought to the role of Marzelline made one wonder why it took so long. Finally, Donald Kaasch and Andreas Schmidt were acceptable in their respective roles of Jacquino and Don Fernando.

It may seem callow and unnecessary to reaffirm the fact that "Fidelio" is a wonderful work of music, but few of its glories were apparent on Thursday night. For a little more than $20, you can own the Otto Klemperer performance, recorded some 30 years ago on EMI Angel. Money well spent - better spent, I'm afraid, than on this dispiriting production.



Photograph of Helen Donath as Marzelline and Donald Kaasch as Jaquino in Fidelio by Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera.



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