BEETHOVEN Fidelio Bernstein DVD-VIDEO 0734159

There is a presiding presence in this performance, live from the Vienna State Opera in 1978, and it is . . . Leonard Bernstein . . . the audience . . . really does go wild . . . it has many merits, and is unquestionably one in which each singer gives everything he or she has . . . the chief source of satisfaction is the orchestra, which plays with absolute commitment. Bernstein likes extremes of tempo but on the whole he manages to convince with them. Interestingly, he uses only half the strings until the great trio, 'Gut, Söhnchen, gut', so that the opening numbers have a chamber quality, including the Overture . . . The expressive colourings of the orchestra are made vivid, not to say raucous, by the emphatic treatment that Bernstein lavishes on them . . . there is no doubting the passion which the conductor feels for the work . . . René Kollo . . . invests a great deal of expression in his role . . . the Marzelline of Lucia Popp [demonstrates] stylish singing and thoroughly convincing acting . . . it's a moving experience . . . The picture and the sound are vivid.

. . . Bernstein conducts with all his heart -- and with the occasional eccentricities as regards tempo that went with the package. By '78 Bernstein was God in Vienna and receives here an . . . effusive welcome at start and finish . . . The Vienna Philharmonic play superbly for a conductor they had come to love. Otto Schenk's staging remains a marvel of sensible action, pertinent handling of the singers and clarity of action -- no updating, no silly ideas, just straightforward, unobtrusive direction . . . René Kollo sings with strength and conviction as Florestan, and acts effectively . . . Manfred Jungwirth's stalwart Rocco is involved and involving . . . Sound and video direction (by Schenk himself) are both excellent.

Lovely, lyrical and introspective, Gundula Janowitz is ideal as Leonore . . . René Kollo provides an appropriately suave, lightweight counterforce as Florestan . . . Lucia Popp sings Marzelline exquisitely -- did she ever not sing exquisitely? -- and exudes simple sympathy . . . Manfred Jungwirth registers a warm and generous, dark and hearty Rocco. The plight of poor, lovesick Jaquino is conveyed deftly, even sweetly, by Adolf Dallapozza. The Vienna chorus . . . sings here as if lives were at stake. Thank Bernstein for that.

Bernstein had a special rapport with Beethoven's opera and indeed with Vienna, where Otto Schenk's 1989 production is given further conviction by a top-quality cast led by Gundula Janowitz's soulful Leonore.

The promising cast delivers vocally most of the time . . . Jungwirth is the best, expressing the many contradictions that plague Rocco's life . . . Kollo is an excellent Florestan . . . convincing in his near-madness . . . Janowitz sings smoothly, avoiding the potential pitfalls of the role . . . The overture is so ideally realized that we barely notice how slow some of it is. The March is wonderful, with just the right balance of lilt and swagger . . . the performance is so potent that the audience goes wild, demanding bow after bow until even Broadway Lenny wants to get on with the show. The finale is musically, dramatically, and visually magnificent . . . Bernstein sets a reasonable tempo (unlike so many conductors who rush the whole scene), holding steady up to the Presto molto, so that every detail of music and drama may be savored . . . Chorus and orchestra are fine throughout . . . Vienna's black-tie audience thunders and screams for eight-and-a-half minutes of curtain calls as the credits roll. The video direction (also by Schenck) is as straightforward as his stage direction. Close-ups are limited and sensitively chosen . . . The video quality . . . is very clean . . . Balances are good . . . as soon as she [Janowitz] moves a few feet into the position where she will sing the bulk of the aria, her voice blooms . . . this is a strong presentation of "Fidelio", anchored by Bernstein's unmatched feeling for the score and his orchestra's fine playing.

As a work of compassion and courage, "Fidelio" can constitute one of the great artistic experiences of a lifetime, as I've known myself, twice in the theatre, then this one on video. Something I would never have expected.

Das ist der von Leonard Bernstein im Beethovenjahr 1977 dirigierte "Fidelio", . . . der . . . dank der eminenten Spannung, die in dieser Aufführung herrscht, hörens- und dank Otto Schenks Produktion auch sehenswert bleibt . . . an der Seite des auf dem Höhepunkt seiner ausdrucks- und Strahlkraft singenden Francisco Araiza . . .

Eine der gelungensten Inszenierung aus Otto Schenks bester zeit, Bernsteins vom Feuer der Freiheit inspirierte, zeitlose musikalische Interpretation und Sänger von unwiederbringlichem Format -- von Gundula Janowitz in der Titelrolle und Lucia Popp als Marzelline bis zu René Kollos Florestan und Manfred Jungwirths Rocco -- machen diesen Staatsopern-Mitschnitt aus dem Jahr 1978 zu einer Referenzaufnahme. Wie gut, daß die DVD die Video-Bilder und den Stereoklang zusammengeführt hat.

Bernsteins Lesart der Partitur ist eigenständig und schlüssig, er interpretiert Beethoven aus der Tradition Joseph Haydns und betont den Übergang von der Klassik zur Romantik. Es wird leicht und schlank und oft geradezu tänzerisch musiziert, nicht nur der Dirigent, auch das Orchester hebt vom Boden ab. Ein optimistischer Grundduktus trägt die Vorstellung von Anfang an, und der Hörer kann sich in dem beruhigenden Gefühl wiegen: Leonore wird es schaffen . . . Gundula Janowitz spielt die Titelrolle sehr glaubwürdig und singt die Respekt gebietend. René Kollo, dessen Florestan kein Schmerzensmann ist, sondern ein unbeugsamer Kämpfer für Menschenrechte, meistert die heikle Kerkerarie ohne Mühe. Eine herausragende Leistung bietet Lucia Popp als Marzelline . . .

. . . Janowitz est la plus lumineuse, la plus émue des Leonore . . . Popp campe une Marzelline bouleversante, dans les bras du plus paternel des Rocco, Manfred Jungwirth . . . apollinien, passionné, irrésistible . . . Le film est réalisé avec le plus grand soin et l'image 4/3 a fort bien vieilli.

Otto Schenk, vrai homme de théâtre, et vrai Viennois, lui met en scène un "Fidelio" réaliste et sans faux pittoresque où décors . . . et personnages ressemblent à ce que Beethoven a suppose et voulu . . . un très bon cast est rassemblé . . . très certainement irréprochable, chacun s'engageant à fond en direct ce 29 janvier, avec chez certains plus d'énergie qu'on ne croyait possible. On a nommé les cas Janowitz: cette splendide chanteuse s'est fait surtout admirer par quelque chose de volontiers diaphane . . . assurément une des performances mémorables de sa grande carrière. Très bon Kollo, très bon Sotin, très bon Jungwirth, tous engagés, réels, ressemblants. Et simplement surnaturelle Marzelline de Lucia Popp . . . dont le chant est la seule chose mieux que céleste, parfaite qu'on ait entendue depuis des mois! Ne manquez absolument pas ce témoignage mémorable: Beethoven y est assumé, respecté, porté à son plus authentique sublime.

. . . le spectacle sans âge d'Otto Schenk est de ceux qui ne se démodent pas et Bernstein, perché sur le trône d'Apollon, met en transe l'Opéra de Vienne -- et nous avec.

Le spectacle sans âge Schenk est de ceux qui ne se démodent pas, illuminé par la Leonore blond platine de Janowitz . . . Gloire à Kollo en ses belles années, à Popp, ange tombé du ciel, à Sotin, excellent Pizarro. Bernstein, perché sur le trône d'Apollon, met en transe l'Opéra de Vienne -- et nous avec.