Anton Dermota (Florestan - Tenor)
Martha Mödl (Leonore - Sopran)
Paul Schöffler (Don Pizarro - Bariton)
Karl Kamann (Don Fernando - Bariton)
Ludwig Weber (Rocco - Bass)
Irmgard Seefried (Marzelline - Sopran)
Waldemar Kmentt (Jacquino - Tenor)
Karl Terkal (1. Gefangener - Tenor)
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper (Chor)
Alfred Jerger (2. Gefangener - Baß)
Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper (Orchester)
Karl Böhm (Dirigent)
Among the opera performances that deserve to be labelled “historic” is the opening night of the new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio unveiled at the Vienna State Opera on 5 November 1955. The accolade is deserved not least because this was the first time that the curtain had gone up in the rebuilt house since wartime bombing raids had reduced it to rubble at the end of the Second World War.
C 813 102 IOf course, this says nothing about the musical quality of the occasion, but the present live recording, released to coincide with the start of the new regime under Dominique Meyer and Franz Welser-Möst, allows today’s listeners to judge this quality for themselves. Then, as now, the chorus and orchestra of the Vienna State Opera enjoy the highest reputation and have no equal anywhere else in the world. And under their then director, Karl Böhm, they amply demonstrated their credentials on this gala first night in 1955. For Böhm, this was the start of a conducting marathon, for the house reopened with no fewer than seven new productions within a matter of only a few days. His Fidelio is notable for its taut and even breathtakingly impulsive tempos, clearly intensifying the impression of a suicide mission on the part of the “angelic Leonore” that Martha Mödl characterized so magnificently throughout this period. Unfortunately listeners can form only a limited impression of her acting, which was every bit as intense as her singing. This was the first time that she had rescued Anton Dermota as her husband, Florestan, his refined singing giving the lie to the widespread belief that the part requires a youthful heldentenor to do it justice. The rest of the cast is likewise made up of legendary names: with her distinctive lyric soprano voice, Irmgard Seefried is almost under-parted as Marzelline, while her father, Rocco, is played by the great bass Ludwig Weber, who only a few days later took on the heroic baritone role of Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten. The villainous Don Pizarro is sung by Paul Schöffler, who that same week shone as Hans Sachs alongside Seefried’s Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. All these singers represent the sort of ensemble spirit that characterizes every great artist and ensures that performances like this one at the Vienna State Opera are always great occasions.
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