Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven

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Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time. Coming from a family of composers, he had a very difficult childhood. His father was an alcoholic and his mother died in 1787 but he found intellectual security through music.

His only opera, Fidelio is both disparate and magnificent, able to unite many musical aims. It is believed Beethoven based it on real events during the French Revolution when a woman rescued her aristocractic husband from jail.

An opera in two acts, the first draft of the libretto was produced by Josephy Sonnleithner, the second by Friedrich Treitschke. The first version premiered on the 20th November 1805 in Vienna, the second version on the 23rd May 1814 also in Vienna. It is set in a Spanish state prison, notr far from Seville, at the end of the 18th century.


Don Fernando, a minister (Baritone)

Don Pizarro, a prison governor (Baritone or Bass)

Florestan, a prisoner (Tenor)

Leonore, his wife, under the name Fidelio (Soprano)

Rocco, the jailor (Bass)

Marzeilline, his daughter (Soprano)

Jaquino, the gatekeeper (Tenor)

First and Second Prisoner (Tenor, Bass)

Soliders of the guard, political prisoners and people (the Chorus)


Act I

In the prison yard, the jailor Rocco has a lot of things to do. The gatekeeper Jaquino will give him a hand as he is in love with his daughter Marzelline and has been accepted as his future son-in-love. However, Rocco has a new assistant, Fidelio, who has changed everything. Marzelline has fallen in love with this new stranger but Fidelio is a woman in reality. She has disguised herself as a man in order to rescue her husband Florestan, who she believes has been wrongfully imprisoned by his opponent Pizarro.

Pizarro finds that his crimes have been uncovered and resolves to eliminate all traces. When the minister inspects the prison, Florestan must not be found.

Meanwhile, Rocco has released the prisoners into the prison garden and this gives Fidelio a chance to look for Florestan. Pizarro is outraged that Rocco has allowed the prisoners out and orders them back in again. As Fidelio could not find Florestan, she asks Rocco for permission to accompany him to the deepest dungeons where a grave is to be dug.

Act II

Scene 1: In the dungeon Florestan recalls his bitter fate at standing up for the truth. Rocco and Fidelio dig the grave and Fidelio does not immediately recognise her husband, although she wants to save him. She throws herself between the prisoner and Pizarro and reveals her identity. She pulls a dagger on Pizarro but trumpets sound, the signal for the minister’s arrival, and Pizarro slinks away.

Scene 2: The minister greets the prisoners and Rocco walks Leonore and Florestan upstairs to daylight. Pizarro is punished for his crimes and the minister greets Florestan whom he believed was dead. Leonore unchains her husband and everyone celebrates.


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