Fidelio, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), is sometimes referred to as the composer’s solitary dream. Even though he intensely wished to create an opera, and having considered more than 50 subjects, Beethoven ultimately merely wrote just a single piece in the genre. The libretto to Fidelio was furnished to the composer by his friend Joseph Sonnleithner (1765–1835), who translated into German and adapted the French text Leonora ou l’amour conjugal, penned by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly (1763–1842). The story of the political prisoner Florestan and his brave wife Leonore, an apotheosis of marital live and fidelity, as well as the idea of justice and pan-human brotherhood, presently impressed Beethoven. Nonetheless, setting a profound ethical message not for symphony or chamber rendition but for a theatre stage, with which he had no previous experience, proved to be a truly formidable task.
The premieres of the first, three-act, version in 1805 and the shortened, two-act, version two years later (both at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna) were flops, with only the opera’s third version, first performed on 23 May 1814 at the Theater am Kärntnertor, having met with triumph. In 1814, Fidelio was first staged in Bohemia, conducted by the then Kapellmeister of the Estates Theatre, Carl Maria von Weber. Beethoven’s work was most recently presented in Prague in 1993, at the State Opera, under the title Leonore, so as to make it clear it was the original version.
The new production, which will be conducted by Andreas Sebastian Weiser, the music director of the State Opera, and staged by the renowned Bulgarian-German director Vera Nemirova, will be an adaptation of the opera’s final, 1814, version.
The opera is sung in German. Czech and English surtitles.
Approximate running time, including intermission: 2 hours, 30 minutes,
one 20-minute intermission.