BEETHOVEN Fidelio Stemme Kaufmann Abbado 4782551
Claudio Abbado's presentation is expertly played and well-sung . . .
. . . [a] gripping performance of Beethoven's only opera . . . Claudio Abbado's command of the score and its structure is consummate, the atmosphere palpable through his perceptive application of orchestral colour. The detail he elicits from his hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra is phenomenal, the blend of sonorities aglow, the clarity of texture refined with a masterly touch . . . Kaufmann sings gloriously, and with lyrical lustre as gleams of hope lighten his crepuscular world in "Euch werde Lohn" Nina Stemme¿s Leonore is a perfect match, the mix of tenderness and resolve in her voice giving Act One's "Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern" a potent urgency. There is sharp characterisation, too, in Falk Struckmann's Pizarro, his malevolence intense in "Ha! Welch ein Augenblick". The chorus is superb, bringing rays of wonderment to the prisoners' glimpse of sunlight.
Abbado's contribution is without doubt extraordinary ¿ a loving if slow interpretation, noble in its anguish and elation, that emphasises the work's demands for dignity, as well as liberty, as basic human rights . . . we have Falk Struckmann's chillingly sadistic Pizarro and Christof Fischesser's attractive, younger-than-usual Rocco. An exceptional Florestan ¿ arguably the finest since Jon Vickers's ¿ from Jonas Kaufmann wonderfully conveys his moral greatness as well as the extremity of his suffering.
. . . it espouses lightly pointed rhythms, transparent textures and attention to detail ¿ but it also captures the hallowed glow of Beethoven tradition . . . [Jonas Kaufmann's Florestan]: his aria, beginning on a thread of sound, is as much a meditation as a cry from the depths. Christof Fischesser is the excellent Rocco, Falk Struckmann a believably sinister Don Pizarro.
. . . why buy this new one? The reasons begin with Jonas Kaufmann. The German tenor brings to the role of the unjustly imprisoned Florestan the same qualities that have made him an international superstar -- a keen understanding of the text joined to a powerful, exceptionally beautiful voice that is capable of the subtlest dynamic shadings. His is a carefully thought-out interpretation that still sounds fresh and spontaneous. It's a thrilling performance . . . Nina Stemme is also extremely impressive. The Swedish dramatic soprano creates a thoroughly sympathetic portrayal of a courageous wife and makes easy work of the role's vocal hurdles, including a gleaming high C . . . Among a strong supporting cast, baritone Peter Mattei almost steals the show as the benevolent minister Don Fernando . . . Mattei imbues his few phrases with a melting beauty and nobility. Bass Christof Fischesser is sympathetic as the jailer Rocco, baritone Falk Struckmann snarls with appropriate menace as the evil Don Pizzaro, and Rachel Harnisch is charming as Marzelline, her lyric soprano contrasting nicely with Stemme's fuller sound . . . Claudio Abbado conducts the forces of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in an energetic reading of the score . . .
The German tenor brings to the role of the unjustly imprisoned Florestan the same qualities that have made him an international superstar ¿ a keen understanding of the text joined to a powerful, exceptionally beautiful voice that is capable of the subtlest dynamic shadings. His is a carefully thought-out interpretation that still sounds fresh and spontaneous. It's a thrilling performance . . . [As his wife, Leonora] Nina Stemme is also extremely impressive. The Swedish dramatic soprano creates a thoroughly sympathetic portrayal of a courageous wife and makes easy work of the role's vocal hurdles, including a gleaming high C. In her extended aria, "Abscheulicher!" she smoothly switches gears from righteous anger to tenderness, and finally, to heroic determination . . . Among a strong supporting cast, baritone Peter Mattei almost steals the show as the benevolent minister Don Fernando. Though he appears only in the final scene, Mattei imbues his few phrases with a melting beauty and nobility. Bass Christof Fischesser is sympathetic as the jailer Rocco, baritone Falk Struckmann snarls with appropriate menace as the evil Don Pizzaro, and Rachel Harnisch is charming as Marzelline, her lyric soprano contrasting nicely with Stemme's fuller sound . . .Claudio Abbado conducts the forces of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in an energetic reading of the score that's often brisk but never merely businesslike. The streamlined recording omits much of the spoken dialogue often heard between the musical numbers. In the great choral scenes for the prisoners and populace (well sung by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir), Abbado slows down the tempo just enough to allow us to savor the grandeur of Beethoven's vision.
. . . the passion and humanity with which Claudio Abbado conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, and a sterling cast has the power to bring you to tears. Abbado believes in Beethoven's music with all his heart and soul. His intro to and pacing of the radiant opening quartet, "Mir ist so wunderbar" (Such wonder fills my breast, I feel my heart must burst), is so loving, gentle, and sublime that it brings to mind the most magical of Mozart's operatic ensembles. Leonore's great solo scene and her prisoner husband Florestan's equally moving second act opener both grip us not just because they are wonderful pieces of music, marvelously sung here by Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, but because they are framed and supported with such emotional immediacy. The final scene of recognition, rescue, and redemption transcends all artifice to serve as a profound spiritual rite of passage. Kaufmann uses every tone at his disposal to express passion, pain, and ultimate liberation. His "Gott! Welch Dunkel hier! . . . In des Lebens Frühlingstagen" (God! What darkness here! . . . In the springtime of my life) begins with a flawless swell from pianissimo to double forte. As impressive as that may be, what elevates it from superb technique to high art is the way Kaufmann transitions from the husky, covered tones of an enslaved, starving prisoner to the gleaming sound of someone crying for his love, conveying the emotion of the moment. His spoken dialogue is equally convincing . . . the triumphant climax of her great "Abscheulicher! . . . Komm, Hoffnung" (Loathsome monster . . . Come, Hope) gleams like a blade cutting through steel bars. She . . . delivers dialogue as vital as Kaufmann's . . . [Christof Fischesser (performing Rocco)]: his singing is extremely beautiful and filled with humanity. Nor can I slight the contributions of Peter Mattei (Don Fernando), Falk Struckmann (Don Pizarro), Rachel Harnisch (Marzelline), and Chrisoph Strehl (Jaquino). Operaphiles whose shelves are already sagging under the weight of multiple versions . . . may wonder whether there's reason enough to purchase this live document (with no audience noise, as strange as that may seem). Thanks to Abbado and Kaufmann, the answer is a resounding "yes". As in their Decca aria recital with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, their musicianship is of the highest order.
This account . . . comes blazingly to life when Jonas Kaufmann is pouring searing intensity into the role of Florestan and Nina Stemme is illuminating Leonore's emotional plights. The rest of the cast is admirable, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Arnold Schoenberg Choir make first-rate contributions. Claudio Abbado conducts a refined reading that occasionally comes up short in conveying Beethoven's propulsive ecstasy.
This live performance from the 2010 Lucerne Festival fills the bill in just about every way, starting at the top with conductor Claudio Abbado, whose command of fortitude and drama is evident in the first bars of the Overture, and builds with the unfolding of the plot. He underpins the high-powered vocalism of his A-level cast with multi-layered instrumental nuance, and makes the little throwaway march that introduces the villain Pizarro into a highlight not to be missed. His cast is about as good as might be assembled in this generation. Nina Stemme's sumptuous soprano inhabits the title role with gorgeous sound that puts meaning into every word and phrase. She is matched by the handsome-sounding Florestan of supertenor Jonas Kaufmann, whose spectacular crescendo from a wisp of sound to a fortissimo on his opening word of invocation ("Gott!") makes it hard to believe ones ears. His aria that follows is heartbreaking, and in the grueling hallucinatory "freedom" section, right on the mark with stamina and ring. The remainder of the cast is similarly exemplary, and the finale . . . exhilarating to the very last note.
In his "Fidelio" the orchestral playing is lithe and bracing but not because the tempos are exceptionally fast. The music emerges with freshness, grandeur and infectious spontaneity. Mr. Abbado brings probing musical insights and a touch of Germanic weight to the music making, balanced by innately Italianate lyricism. Ms. Stemme's gleaming voice . . . is captured excitingly here. Mr. Kaufmann is a terrific Florestan, singing with burnished sound, virile power and anguished emotional intensity, as well as poignant pianissimo phrases, a Kaufmann trademark . . . he has a big, healthy voice with robust top notes . . . Mr. Abbado's winning cast includes the rosy soprano Rachel Harnisch as Marzelline, the appealing lyric tenor Christoph Strehl as Jaquino and the veteran bass-baritone Falk Struckmann as an uncommonly cagey villain, Don Pizarro.
. . . the orchestral contribution to this Fidelio, under Claudio Abbado's supremely astute musical direction, makes this a recording of unusual interest. The players are extraordinary ¿ there's no reason to apologize for these horns, the bassoons are especially fine, and the oboe playing, as ever in Lucerne, is of historic achievement ¿ but this is only a starting point for the musical rewards. Under Abbado's guidance, something like the canon quartet in Act I is more than a beautiful, swaying moment in suspended time. By the fourth vocal entrance, the piece evolves from an initial warm hominess to a scene where real human beings are sorting things out. The "Gut, Söhnchen, gut" trio is a complete character study . . . Best of all is the gravedigging duet in Act II. This is the piece in which Beethoven reached his Mozartean ideal of a convergence where the shape, the melodies, the form and the orchestration all serve the dramatic moment and each other. Abbado, as he so often does in this performance, gives the impression that, quite literally, every note Beethoven wrote is making an effect. Offered this orchestral paradise, the singers must have felt . . . that this was the chance to surpass themselves. Nina Stemme's Leonore is finely graded from start to finish. She is even careful to try to imitate a male voice in the dialogue when she is disguised as a boy. This is a psychologically keen performance; if she seems constrained at first, it turns out to be because she cleverly plays "Abscheulicher!" as the only moment in which Leonore can be herself. The aria is so cleanly, bravely and truly sung that the connection to Fiordiligi's "Per pietà" from "Così Fan Tutte" has never been clearer. Likewise, Jonas Kaufmann's Florestan is beautifully sung, and when the two finally join forces for "O namenlose Freude!" the result is suitably Mozartean . . . Kaufmann has enough mastery of his difficult aria to allow us to think about the glorious music and the beauty of the words, and he makes a splendid contribution to the finale, revived rather than exhausted. Christoph Fischesser's Rocco is a neat portrayal, one of those people with just a little bit of authority who think they need to explain things to everybody. Listening "blind" to the arrival of Don Fernando at the end brought a sense of grave beauty ¿ startlingly so. He turns out to be the great Peter Mattei, and for once the audience can be as gratified to meet Don Fernando as the prisoners are . . . it's pleasing to note the voice-to-orchestra balance here, which resembles the actual experience of an opera house . . . under Abbado, this performance is so consistently rewarding that you may be tempted to skip the intermission. And when Act II is done, you may be tempted to start in again at the beginning, as I did.
Claudio Abbado draws a lithe, fresh and stirring performance from the combined orchestras. The top-tier cast is led by Nina Stemme as Leonore, and Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan, both in thrilling voice.
A superb cast headed by Nina Stemme as Leonore and Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan scales the summit under Abbado's finely detailed direction. As much applies to the orchestral playing, choral singing and engineering.
. . . the cast is as fine as any that might be assembled today and Abbado himself conducts a performance the like of which we have not heard since the time of Furtwängler. It is a no-frills yet at the same time deeply expressive reading which goes like a bolted arrow directly to the heart of the matter. If "Fidelio" speaks as no other opera does of the miraculous resilience of the human spirit, Claudio Abbado's late re-creation of it serves only to compound that miracle.
. . . I was very curious to hear this "Fidelio" which . . . received very good reviews all around, particularly for Abbado's conducting but also for the Leonore of Stemme and the Florestan of Kaufmann . . . The opening of act II, naturally, belongs to Florestan and specifically the magnificent singing and characterization of Kaufmann . . . [his conception] is magnificent both vocally and dramatically. I have never in my life heard any Florestan, not even the great Vickers, begin "Gott! Welch dunkel hier" at so soft a whisper, then gradually and perfectly increase the volume with a flawless crescendo until one's ears are ringing with the sound and power of his voice.
Neben der souveränen Orchester- und Dirigentenleistung sowie dem nicht minder überzeugenden . . . Arnold-Schönberg-Chor Wien, beeindruckte [nicht zuletzt die sängerische Besetzung] . . . [Der Hörer der Decca-Produktion] wird froh sein, einen so außergewöhnlichen Moment in der Interpretationsgeschichte der einzigen Beethoven-Oper ins heimische Laufwerk schieben zu können.
Für die erfüllten Momente der Aufführunge sorgt Abbado mit seinem "Orchester der Solisten" . . . Jedes instrumentale Detail wird plastisch geformt, gerade in der dialogischen Interaktion mit den Stimmen . . . Und großartig gelungen die düstere Introduktion zu Florestans Arie . . . In den Chorszenen exzelliert der Wiener Arnold Schönberg Chor . . . [Jonas Kaufmann]: Anrührend das inwendige Singen zu Beginn der Arie, imponierend deren Schlussteil . . . Peter Mattei singt die Partie des Ministers . . . mit balsamischem Wohlklang . . . Das zweite Paar neben dem hohen, Marzelline/Jacquino, ist mit Rachel Harnisch und Christoph Strehl gut besetzt.