Lorin Maazel was one of the supreme conductors of his day. This quite extraordinary performance of Fidelio captures the sheer mastery, magic and involvement of his total understanding of Beethoven's miraculous score.
The cast is uniformly outstanding with the possible exception of the slightly dry-voiced, yet excellent, Florestan of James King. I was particularly enchanted by the Marzelline of Lillian Watson and the Jacquino of Thomas Moser, while Eva Marton’s portrayal of Leonore gets to the very core of this role.
The individual treats as you progress through this marvellous account are many. Maazel sees this opera as a whole, and the Chorus and the Orchestra both respond splendidly to his direction. Maazel’s conducting shows not only his technical mastery but also his uncanny understanding of the drama and, in particular, he raises the opera's early scenes to much greater intensity than is often the case.
From the very first note of the Overture through to the final triumph, including a magnificent outing for the Overture Leonora No.3 placed, as is sometimes the case, before the final scene, the sweep and majesty evident here makes this amongst the greatest versions of Fidelio – so involving, exciting and moving.
The Austrian Radio recording is excellent with relatively little annoying stage and audience noise. Orfeo‘s booklet contains a fascinating article on the history of Fidelio at the Salzburg Festival, but there is no libretto. Let’s hope that Orfeo can find more wonders from Salzburg in Austrian Radio’s archives.