OP3290. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 7 Jan., 1984, w. Klaus Tennstedt Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eva Marton, Jon Vickers, Franz Mazura, Paul Plishka, Roberta Peters, etc. [This was Tennstedt's final Met Opera performance of the seven FIDELIOs he conducted during his brief 3-week Met career!] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-794.
“In sixty years of attending operas, I cannot remember a more enthusiastic ovation for an orchestral overture or interlude than what one hears after the Leonore Overture #3 that Klaus Tennstedt places before the final scene of this Met broadcast from 1984. Tennstedt’s entire Met career consists of seven performances of FIDELIO in the 1983–84 season. He was much in demand around the world, and it is good that the Met administration persisted to the point where it obtained even this single run.
Tennstedt’s approach to FIDELIO can best be described as dramatic. That doesn’t actually do it justice. This reading is white hot from the opening chords of the FIDELIO Overture to the closing bars. The music is driven with intensely expressive playing, taut rhythms, and the maintenance of forward motion throughout. One has the feeling that every single performer, from the lead singers to the last stand of the second violins, felt the passion of the event and refused simply to be a passenger. The sense of commitment is palpable for the entire length of the opera. The audience explosion after the Leonore Overture #3 feels like an expression of gratitude for having been present at what was very far from a routine afternoon at the opera. Tennstedt’s conducting is what we mean when we use the term ‘electric’ to describe a performance.
The lead singers were not slouches in the intensity department, either. Eva Marton was glorious in her big aria and the duet with Florestan, though perhaps a bit tentative at the outset. Later on in her career Marton could get squally, but her top notes shine here, and she has no apparent problem with Beethoven’s notoriously difficult writing for the soprano. As for Florestan, Jon Vickers was certainly the finest interpreter of that role in my lifetime. His desperate outburst at ‘Gott! welch’ Dunkel hier!’ sounds like it comes from deep within him. And no tenor in my experience has been as persuasive in the transition from desperation and gloom to ecstatic hope at the thought of his rescue. Vocally, Vickers is in fabulous shape. As fine as his studio recordings with Klemperer and Karajan are, this is on an altogether different plane. As you get to know this performance and start listening closely on repeated hearings, you can sense both Marton and Vickers playing off of Tennstedt, and vice versa, with the kind of dramatic sparks that can occur only onstage in an inspired performance with great artists.
Paul Plishka is a richly voice Rocco, though it would have been nice had Matti Salminen sung on this broadcast as he did in earlier performances. Roberta Peters was past her best years, and her gleaming soprano takes a few minutes to settle in, but once it did she is a lovely Marzelline. Franz Mazura is a gruff-voiced Pizarro who seems to be pushing the edge of his vocal limits at times. John Cheek’s Don Fernando is firm and very well sung, and the remainder of the cast is strong as well.
St. Laurent Studio always offers very good transfers, though I imagine their source for this release was an off-the-air recording, as it suffers a bit from the compression that radio stations apply. Do not let that discourage you. This is a magnificent example of the possibilities in a great opera house when the right ingredients are assembled. It is also the only Tennstedt performance of FIDELIO of which I am aware, which makes it even more special.”
- Henry Fogel. FANFARE
"...the Leonore Overture #3 [was played] as a segue from the Dungeon Scene to the Finale of the opera. You will hear the final notes of the duet between Leonore (Fidelio) and Florestan, with applause dissolving into the opening of the Overture. The unbelievable, heart-stopping audience reception following the Met Orchestra's inspiring performance of Leonore #3 nearly raised the roof off the house, leading the segue into the Finale.
The cast was about as good as you could get: Jon Vickers was legendary as Florestan. With his total commitment, he literally 'became' the role, and in the process raised the level of everyone else. Eva Marton was Leonore, Roberta Peters played Marzelline, Matti Salminen was Rocco, Franz Mazura, Pizzaro, and Aage Haugland as Don Fernando. The production was by Otto Schenk. And then there was Klaus Tennstedt.
From the outset of the very first rehearsal, one could sense his total, life and death, commitment to the score. That made the orchestra even more eager to reciprocate in kind. Those incredible moments on January 7, 1984 made me feel privileged to be part of this great orchestra, and will remain with me forever as one of the high points of my career."
- James Kreger, 'cellist, Metropolitan Opera Musicians
"Even before Klaus Tennstedt lifted his baton to make his American opera debut as the leader of the season's first FIDELIO, he was given a long, fervent ovation. The cheering was repeated at every subsequent opportunity, perhaps as an expression of the audience's gratitude at finding one of the world's foremost conductors in the Metropolitan's pit, even if as a passing guest. Mr. Tennstedt responded by leading a high-tension performance of FIDELIO that often stretched the dramatic line near the breaking point, particularly in a passionate reading of the 'Leonore' Overture #3, gratuitously played as usual before the final scene. This was not a FIDELIO especially rich in orchestral or vocal nuance. What Mr. Tennstedt seemed to be aiming for, on the whole, was heart-stopping melodrama and a musical line that never fell slack for a moment. That is certainly one valid way to approach this most melodramatic of operas. One could imagine Beethoven himself conducting it along the same lines."
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 December, 1983
"[Vickers' Florestan] was the most awesome thing I ever heard in my life; [with] the first note of the part, I just fell out of my seat. I can still hear it."
- James Levine (as quoted in Jeannie Williams' A HERO'S LIFE, p.107)