Katharina Thalbach sets her Fidelio, filmed at Zürich in 2008, somewhere in the early 20th century. Most of the costuming suggests very early but Don Pizzaro’s suit suggests 20s/30s gangster. Maybe he’s just fashion forward. The story telling is fairly straightforward and there’s no big concept. There are a few, smallish, touches. For example, the prisoners seem to be playing basketball with Don Pizarro’s head in the conclusion. The sets are literal but evocatively lit and rather effective.
The performances are really rather good. The, in Zürich terms, ubiquitous Alfred Muff is Rocco and it’s the best thing I’ve seen him do. He’s avuncular, just servile enough and very pleasing to listen to. Leonora is Melanie Diener (I bought this disk because I was so impressed with her Isolde at COC and this is one of only two opera recordings she appears in). She is excellent. The voice is just the right size and she acts extremely well. Of course, with her height, she’s rather more convincing as Fidelio than as Frau Florestan but that’s a small price to pay. Roberto Saccà’s Florestan is very helden with clear, ringing top notes though his acting definitely verges on the overwrought. Lucio Gallo is a very Italianate Don Pizarro; a cross between Gianni Schicchi and Snidely Whiplash, but effective enough. All four combine well in the big ensembles in Act 2. Sandra Trattnig makes a light, bright, attractive Marzelline and Christoph Strehl is an OK if slightly anonymous Jacquino. Bernard Haitink conducts and is in his element. Perhaps he’s heard to best advantage in the Leonora no. 3 that is interpolated between the two second act scenes but he’s also a sympathetic support to the singers. The Zürich orchestra and chorus are on their usual good form.
This recording was the first collaboration between Opernhaus Zürich and Opus Arte. The video direction by Felix Breisach is unobtrusive and the HD recording looks and sounds very good indeed on Blu-ray. The only extras are a cast gallery and synopsis and documentation is basic. There are German, French, English and Spanish subtitles.
Anyone looking for a good, modern recording of Fidelio won’t go far wrong with this.