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Classical 101

Beethoven's Fidelio at Ohio State

The School of Music at The Ohio State University presents a concert performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio on March 10 at 8 PM in Mershon Auditorium. Marshall Haddock conducts the OSU Symphony and the combined Glee Clubs. Katlheen Sasnett, a wonderful soprano (and a doll) as well as my DMA classmate, returns to campus to sing the title role. Metropolitan Opera tenor Michael Hendrick sings Florestan, the prisoner for whom his beloved wife, Leonore disguises herself as a boy (Fidelio) and gets a job in the prison the better to rescue her husband.

Not By Choice Did Beethoven Write Only One Opera

Beethoven very much wanted to be a successful composer of operas. In this he wished to follow Haydn - whose operas are seldom given today - and Mozart - several of whose operas are miracles. But as Beethoven entered his maturity, the hands of the opera companies were moving away from the aristocracy, who could afford to maintain them, into private impresarios who often could not. And Beethoven had established himself in Vienna as primarily a pianist who went on to write music, but used piano performance as an entree into fashionable (monied) society. The drama of Beethoven's orchestral music was at first jarring to the public used to the elegance of Mozart and the wit of Haydn. Cherubini was fashionable but his music is a lot of empty bombast today. Beethoven grew to admire Rossini even if he grew jealous of the Italian composer's pre-eminence in opera (imagine Beethoven being jealous of anyone).

Fidelio Began Its life As A Singspiel

Fidelio began life as an opera (singspiel--or song play, really) called Leonore but a disappointing premiere in 1805 led to the revised Fidelio of 1806 and further revision ensued until the opera reached the form in which we love it today in 1814. Here's a look at the finale, as Fidelio (Leonore) is reunited with Florestan amid "general rejoicing." This is how the Vienna State Opera was re-opened in 1955. Vienna was Beethoven's adopted home town and the scene of his greatest triumphs. It is where the composer died in 1827 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWNoBCh1ZNE

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.