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*Fidelio* on 3/28/17


Barbara and I saw Beethoven's *Fidelio* at the Met on 3/28/17. I had never seen it and had next to no familiarity with the work - - I heard a semi-staged performance at Royal Albert Hall in London sometime in the 90s, I think it was the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment or some other such rarefied hoo ha. I have next to no memory of it, it seemed like the rest of the audience enjoyed it more than I did.

That was not the case this time - - the audience loved it, and so did I! Though Barbara and I both agreed that we won't be rushing to see it again. I wouldn't describe it as "thrilling" but it was fascinating, meaningful, beautiful. Plus it was only two and half hours long, which is a bonus. It seems like at the two-and-a-half-hour mark in most Wagner operas, the curtain is just going up.

The overture was practically the best thing in the show. The way that he integrates the harmony and the orchestration, it blew me away. The definite stand-out number was the quartet early in the first act, "Mir ist so wunderbar." Wunderbar, indeed! Beautiful, deliciously constructed, nothing short of sublime. The word that kept coming to mind, throughout the opera, was Humanity. Beethoven's music in this opera drips with Humanity.

Sebastian Weigle was the conductor. Barbara noted that the orchestra didn't always sound like they were together, and they didn't - - I thought maybe it was intentional. I went to a master class years ago by American soprano Barbara Bonney and she told a story about German conductor Carlos Kleiber. He said that whenever it says "espressivo" in the score, that means that not everyone should be together, it should have a charming looseness, an expressive may I say off kilter quality. That doesn't work for everything (would hate to hear that in Webern), but I thought it worked nicely for Beethoven.

The production is by Jürgen Flimm, it was new in 2000. I liked it - - he updated it to sometime around the 1950s. The staging was imaginative and occasionally surprising, but never drew attention to itself, was never clever (I abhor cleverness). The final scene was staged like a ritual, for the performers and the audience. That was an interesting choice.

The singers were generally very good. The undisputed star of the show was Adrianne Pieczonka as Leonore, the heroic woman in drag.

Glorious singing. Full and vibrant, full of color, always clear and effortless. I heard her in *Elektra* last season (she played Elektra's sister) and will seek out her performances in the future, she's something else.

Hannah-Elisabeth Müller played the sweet young thing, Marzelline. She sang well but now and then sounded a little squally over the staff. Not a good thing. Falk Struckmann played her father, he was another stand-out. Beautiful singing, and he didn't overdo the buffo elements of his performance (I abhor overdone buffo).

Klaus Florian Vogt was Florestan, Leonore's husband. He has a strong voice, very bright, not the kind of voice I was expecting to hear in this role. His voice made me hear the music that came before Beethoven (Haydn and Mozart) rather than the music that came after (Wagner and Strauss).

The weak link in the cast was Greer Grimsley. This was not a surprise, I heard him as Tristan's wingman in *Tristan und Isolde* in Seattle in 1998 and didn't like him at all. Nearly 20 years later and lots more Wagner performances in between, and as you would expect, he doesn't sound any better. Woofy. I couldn't always tell what pitch he was singing. He thought he'd distract me by amping up the drama, but I would have none of it.

My old boyfriend Günther Groissböck had the small role of Don Fernando. He's not really my old boyfriend, but I wish he was. Maybe a little broad in the beam (as my mother would say) for some people, but it totally works for me. Oh Lord he is dreamy.

Nice singing, too! I'll warn you that he's playing Baron Ochs in *Der Rosenkavalier,* which Barbara, Richard, and I are hearing in a few weeks, so you'll be hearing about him again.


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