This recording presents a "new edition" of Fidelio, one in which "there are countless differences in articulation, dynamics, timbre, orchestral scoring and even the actual notes." Indeed, some of the tempi are not what we're used to, and the wind parts are more prominent, but otherwise, it's impossible to tell the difference. The orchestra plays as smoothly as silk under Sir Simon Rattle, the chorus is glorious, and the smaller roles are beautifully taken: the Jaquino of Rainer Trost is youthful, eager and handsomely sung, while the imposing, simply beautiful Don Fernando of Thomas Quasthoff is a treat, and Juliane Banse's Marzelline is a real, flesh-and-blood character. The Rocco and Pizarro are good. But Jon Villars' Florestan, though well sung, is lightish and lacks pathos, and Angela Denoke's Leonore is, simply, poorly sung. Lovers of Beethoven's music should turn to the Otto Klemperer-led Christa Ludwig/Jon Vickers performance on EMI for a great Fidelio. --Robert Levine
The absence of this overture is already a big minus, as it deprives a listener from more musical pleasure.
Otherwise, the recording is good, with excellent voices - Angela Denoke (Leonore) is exceptional, with Thomas Quasthoff is a convincing Don Fernando, and I particularly wanted to hear Alan Held - I saw and heard him once in Der fliegende Holländer as Der Holländer (The Dutchman) in Washington DC; he was PHENOMENAL. And here he was a great Don Pizarro, although sounding lighter than some deeper, more basso voices.
Overall, it is a good, but not a particularly outstanding recording; I'd give it four stars if it had the Leonore Overture, but still it is not as particular as Bernstein's or a timeless classic as Furtwangler's Fidelio.
This live Fidelio is a case in point. It would be automatically disqualified (except to slavishly devoted British critics) by the second-rate singing in every lead role, but especially the light-voiced and totally unidiomatic Leonora and Florestan. But even with better singers, Rattle can't find a style for Beethoven, other than to fuss over the line and push the pace. This great masterpiece demands a lot more--at this point Rattle doesn't have it to give.
She is a wonderful heroic soprano, perfect for the role. Her passionate, emotionally charged voice blends beautifully in the ensembles and shines in her great aria "Abscheulicher!" in the first act. In any case how could she have been chosen otherwise for the Salzburg Easter Festival by Sir Simon Rattle ?
(She also has spectacular looks, should a DVD ever be considered)
This is a great new set, conducted with inspiration and wonderfully recorded with rich well rounded sound. Highly recommended!