OP2227. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 13 Feb., 1960, w.Böhm Cond.Met Opera Ensemble; Birgit Nilsson, Jon Vickers, Giorgio Tozzi, Hermann Uhde, Oskar Czerwenka, Laurel Hurley, etc. 2-Sony 88697 85309. Final Sealed Copy! - 886978530929
“Recorded the afternoon of February 13, 1960, this is a hectic but very exciting FIDELIO. Karl Böhm knows what he wants and almost invariably gets it. You can only marvel at how he manages to be fleet and deadly serious at the same time. The Met Orchestra’s brass bobbles occasionally - they always did in those days - and at the start of the Prisoners’ Scene the prisoners sound insufficiently rehearsed. Otherwise, as in the ‘Er sterbe’ scene, which is held together as if singing at Mach 3 speed were the most natural thing in the world, with our soprano popping out high As in tune and in time and everyone else totally on the beat, not to mention a performance of the Leonore Overture #3 that is roller-coasterish in its excitement level but formidably disciplined, this is a precise, enthralling reading.
Jon Vickers, though not in his absolutely best voice - there’s a graininess throughout and the top lacks some freedom - is still the Florestan of the ages: tragically forlorn, hopeful as if seeing a vision of the grail, insane with need, wild with enthusiasm. It’s as if he’s in the room; he’s almost visible. Birgit Nilsson’s singing is perfect. She never was the ideal Leonore because vulnerability wasn’t really her thing, but her part in ‘Mir ist…’ is lovely and she shows real tenderness in the melodrama in Act 2. The high notes are staggering, though she sings the big note in ‘Abscheulischer’ as a disconnected whopper - very Wagnerian-style - rather than as the culmination of the line. Laurel Hurley and Charles Anthony make a sweet, sincere, and in fact vivid pair of youngsters….this is one for Böhm’s leadership and maniacal intensity. The sound is hard-edged but more than acceptable."
- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com, 13 May, 2011
“There is much to recommend this performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, recorded in clean mono sound. Karl Böhm was an immensely experienced conductor of this opera, and his account of the Leonore #3 Overture is thrilling. Jon Vickers, in one of his first Florestans, is in uneven voice, but committed. Birgit Nilsson makes an exciting Fidelio.”
- BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, Nov., 2011
“the focus of interest falls primarily on the conducting...It's a white-knuckle ride of a performance in which he ratchets up the tension to the nth degree, reminding us that this grandest of humanitarian statements is essentially a thriller, and one of the finest ever written...The dialogue here is delivered with tremendous sincerity, at times shockingly intense.”
- THE GUARDIAN, 7 July, 2011