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Beethoven, Ludwig van - Fidelio
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"Interpreten" Don Fernando - Hans Sotin Don Pizarro - Theo Adam Florestan - Richard Cassilly Leonore - Anja Silja Marzelline - Lucia Popp The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra Leitung: Leopold Ludwig "Aufnahme" Historische Studioproduktion von der Hamburger Staatsoper 1968 "Ludwig van Beethoven - Fidelio" Schon mit den ersten Tönen von "Mir ist so wunderbar", aber spätestens mit dem Gefangenenchor "O welche Wonne!" erkennt man die hohe künstlerische und musikalische Qualität dieses Fidelio. Leonores "Töt erst sein Weib!", gesungen von der Sopranistin Anja Silja, ist dann nur einer von vielen weiteren Gänsehautmomenten dieser Studio-Produktion der Hamburgischen Staatsoper, aufgenommen im Januar 1968 unter der künstlerischen Leitung von Rolf Liebermann. Diese sehr naturalistisch angelegte Produktion kommt gänzlich ohne Schnörkel und falschen Pathos aus, sondern überzeugt durch schlichte Schönheit, tiefe Gefühle und wunderbare musikalische Momente. Es ist ein Wiedersehen mit den großen Stars der Oper: Anja Silja als Leonore, Lucia Popp als Marzelline, Richard Cassilly als Florestan, Hans Sotin als Don Fernando und Theo Adam als Don Pizarro.
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Anja Silja is an ideal Fidelio - a tough and striking androgynous woman with phenomenal acting skills. We can see why Wieland Wagner left his wife and children for this impressive artist. Silja's charismatic performance is riveting. She suffers extensively from the unwanted attentions of Lucia Popp's young, innocent and nubile Marzelline, avoiding looking at her and never encouraging her, unlike Karita Mattila's Fidelio at the Met, who plays up her role as a flirtatious guy in order to infiltrate the family in charge of the prison.
Popp's acting is very convincing - we can almost accept that she's young and naive enough to believe that Fidelio is a man. Her singing, of course, is perfection. Her dreamy, adolescent fixation causes great stress to the already stressed out Fidelio, who is walking a very fine and dangerous tightrope as she searches among the prisoners for her politically captive husband.
Ernst Wiemann is a dignified, attractive and noble Rocco, an artist with great stage presence and a beautiful rich, black bass, who is able to maintain hs integrity in the face of the evil Pizarro, demonically sung and acted by Theo Adam. Unlike the Met Fidelio, which comes across more like a farce, especially because of Rene Pape's fatuous performance, this film has smatterings of profound but subtle political implications. We cannot help but be reminded that it wasn't too long ago that other men were committing atrocities while they were "just following orders."
All the acting is superb and dramatically gripping in this performance. The tension builds in the dungeon scene, and that electrifying moment when Fidelio reveals her true identity just as Pizarro is about to murder her husband is thrilling in its intensity. She pulls off her boy's cap, her glorious, long red hair tumbling over her shoulders, whips out a gun, and Pizarro is finished!
Richard Cassilly is one of the finest Florestans I've yet experienced. His voice is decidedly beautiful, and fully capable of navigating all of Beethoven's tricky vocal terrain, clearly enunciating the ornaments one usually doesn't hear. Unlike his somewhat wooden (but vocally excellent) performance in Die Meistersinger, here his acting is of a high dramatic quality.
When he and Fidelio/Leonore are united, the chemistry between them is crackling. You get the sense of two freedom fighters, tough as nails, who really belong together. I attribute some of their passion to Anja Silja. She is a very womanly, ardent and attractive artist. She throws herself into Florestan's arms, and you really feel that the feverish Cassilly is loving every minute of it, inspired by her commitment, talent and beauty.
I highly recommend this filmed opera. It is one of the stars of my collection.
As to the production itself, it is traditional and beautifully mounted. The fine State Opera orchestra is conducted by the veteran Leopold Ludwig and they are very nearly faultless. (The horns cover themselves with glory in Fidelio's 'Komm, Hoffnung'.)
But as in any production of Fidelio it is the singers we are most focused on and here the film really shines. There is not a weak link in the cast. Anja Silja, then quite young and long before she encountered the vocal troubles she endured later in her career, is simply marvelous as the plucky Leonora/Fidelio. The voice gleams, even when riding atop the huge column of orchestral sound in 'Komm, Hoffnung' or 'O namenlose Freude.' Her slim figure helps make her convincing as the male 'Fidelio.' Richard Cassilly, not ordinarily much of an actor, is nonetheless quite effective as Florestan and the voice, always huge and bronze-tinted, is remarkably apt for this part. The dungeon scene ('Gott, welch Dunkel hier') is, in fact, as convincing dramatically as anything I've seen him do. Hans Sotin is electrifying as Don Fernando, as is Theo Adam as Pizarro. The treasurable Slovak soprano, Lucia Popp, is both pert and musically impeccable as Marzelline. The not-well-remembered young tenor, Erwin Wolhfahrt -- he died not long after this film was made -- is suitably earnest and endearing as Jacquino. Ernst Wiemann is suitably black-voiced and dramatically convincing as Rocco; unfortunately his 'Gold' aria is cut. And one must not forget the chorus, such an important part of this score; they are moving in their 'O welche Lust' and the giddily joyful 'Heil sei dem Tag'.
I cannot give this DVD a full five-star rating primarily because this should not be anyone's only DVD of the opera; it is primarily a historical document. That said, I found it very satisfying from a musical and dramatic perspective, making me almost forget any audiovisual drawbacks typical of its 1968 filming.
Sound: Mono; Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian; Picture format: 4:3; Region code: 0 (worldwide); Running time: 115 mins.