[Met Tour] CID:229540

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Fri, May 26, 1972

Fidelio (130)
Ludwig van Beethoven | Joseph Sonnleithner
Leonie Rysanek

James McCracken

Don Pizarro
William Dooley

Giorgio Tozzi

Joy Clements

Leo Goeke

Don Fernando
Paul Plishka

First Prisoner
Nico Castel

Second Prisoner
Raymond Gibbs

Harold Sternberg

Hans Wallat

Review 1:

Review of Peter Altman in the Minneapolis Star

Met stages heroic, radiant 'Fidelio'

"Fidelio" is an opera which, when it is going badly, seems terrible. One notices that the plot fails to introduce major characters until the middle of the performance, and that a protagonist of the long first scene has almost nothing to do afterwards. One is aware that the opera is inconsistent in musical style. One is conscious that much of Beethoven's music cannot be sung naturally. One feels that literary abstractions are too predominant, that there is too much gloom in the opera, and that there is not enough action or externalized conflict.

When "Fidelio" is produced skillfully and sympathetically, however, it seems an opera almost as great as any ever written. It exudes nobility and humane spirit. One realizes it is unified musically and intellectually much more original, and profoundly than standard sentimental operas with well-carpentered melodramatic librettos are. One appreciates that Beethoven's opera is a great work of high seriousness, which expresses profound ideas and universal feelings with power and poetry.

Last night the Metropolitan Opera brought to Northrop Auditorium the production of "Fidelio" created for its 1970-71 season. The occasion marked not only the first time Minneapolis had seen the production, but the first time "Fidelio" had ever been performed in Minneapolis by the Met.

The New Yorkers' "Fidelio" has been staged by Otto Schenk, and it is unusually clear and communicative dramatically. The production is paced exceptionally deliberately; recitatives, not rushed over, are allowed to be heard and registered and one always knew yesterday just what was happening and why. Music, dialogue and movement are smoothly and forcefully united.

Boris Aronson's sets - most effective when abstract - contribute greatly to creation of an atmosphere appropriately rough and bleak. Aronson's simple costumes and Schenk 's direction also help make strong and credible the characterizations of "Fidelio."

Yesterday's cast principals sang and acted outstandingly as individuals, and blended admirably in Beethoven's exquisite ensembles. Leonie Rysanek was a memorable Leonore who brought fire to her big arias and was even better in the many passages which call for singing in less than full voice. Miss Rysanek's interpretation was notable for sensitivity of phrasing, purity of tone, strength and passion. Her acting as the wife who disguises herself as a man in order to find and save jailed husband was also excellent.

William Dooley, as the villainous Pizarro, the corrupt and homicidal prison governor, was chillingly believable in a uniform not unlike that of a Nazi officer; the bass's singing was clear and forceful. As the kindly jailer Rocco bass Giorgio Tozzi aptly conveyed sympathy and the caution of a man caught in a dangerous position. His singing had precision, warmth and depth.

Tenor James McCracken, who as Florestan did not appear until the second of the opera's two acts, put guts and poetry into his dungeon reverie '"In des Lebens Frühlingstagen" and into his part in the opera's climactic duet of rapture "O namenlose Freude." Paul Plishka was also very good as Don Fernando, the kindly state minister who frees Pizarro's prisoners.

The Met's production could have been improved in several ways. Considering that "Fidelio" is an opera about light and darkness, which symbolize freedom and bondage, it was disappointing that the staging was not illuminated with more contrast and daring.

Hans Wallat's conducting suggested understanding of Beethoven's phrasing, structure and harmony. But the orchestra played erratically, often with harsh tone and sometimes actually off-pitch; this was very serious because the instrumental role in "Fidelio" is much more prominent than in most operas.

Despite its flaws, however, last night's performance was a moving interpretation of a heroic and radiant - however intractable - masterpiece. It was a stirring event by far the best effort of the Met's local 1972 season,

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