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Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma
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Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Antonio Pappano
conductor
Simon O'Neill tenor (Florestano)
Rachel Willis-Sørensen soprano (Leonore)
Günther Groissböck bass (Rocco)
Amanda Forsythe soprano (Marzelline)
Sebastian Holecek baritone (Don Pizarro)
Maximilian Schmitt tenor (Jaquino)
Julian Kim baritone (Don Fernando)
Marco Santarelli tenore (Prigioniero I)
Antonio Pirozzi bass (Prigioniero II)
Ciro Visco Chorusmaster

Beethoven Fidelio in concert version

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Sir Antonio Pappano

In addition to being a great orchestra conductor, Antonio Pappano is a man who uses his role and influence to help raise public awareness of human rights - and of everyone's right to express his or her own religious and political views freely and with dignity. At heart, inaugurating the new Santa Cecilia symphony season with Fidelio - Beethoven's only composition written for the theatre - is a way of stressing this stance. The plot, adapted from a French text by Nicolas Bouilly already used by others prior to Bonn's most renowned composer, tells a story of love, and of hope in redeeming the weakest - those who so often fall victim to the abuse of power. It is a subject as current today as it was in the past, when European theatres, including Vienna's, were dominated by Italian melodrama with its light, intricate tales. Beethoven responded to the prevailing fashion with a strong story that that begins with a picture of bourgeois life - a wife worrying over the fate of her unjustly imprisoned husband - and unwinds with emotions, surprises, heart-racing excitement, and plot twists masterfully rendered with intense theatricality. The Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra and Chorus present an international cast featuring Simon O'Neill in the role of Florestan and Rachel Willis -Sørensen as Leonore.

Synopsis
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First representation
Wien, 23 May 1814

 

Act One.
In the courtyard of a prison.
Jaquino, the prison doorkeeper, confides to Marzelline, daughter of Rocco, the head guard of the prison, that he wishes to marry her very soon, but the girl firmly refuses, her thoughts being all for Fidelio, her father’s young assistant. Rocco, who is aware of his daughter’s
feelings, and who is also fond of Fidelio, alludes to a possible marriage between the two young people. But Fidelio is not the person he seems to be; he is in fact Leonore who has disguised herself as a man in order to be taken on by Rocco as a prison guard; she fears that her husband, Florestan, is being held there
on account of his political opinions which are opposed to those of Don Pizarro, the tyrannical Governor of the state prison.
Marzelline’s idea of marrying ‘him’ naturally embarrasses Fidelio, and she is even more embarrassed when she notes that Rocco is also in favour of the match. Neither can she reveal her true identity without compromising the outcome of her plan to ascertain the presence of her husband. Fidelio takes advantage
of Rocco’s trust in ‘him’ to ask for more responsible tasks, for example, to be in charge of the mysterious prisoner who has been for some time kept in complete isolation in the dungeons.
Rocco promises to speak to the Governor.
A march marks the arrival of Don Pizarro. He has received a letter warning him of the imminent visit of the Minister, Don Fernando, who has discovered that men who are victims of Don Pizarro’s personal spite are being held in the prison. He is coming, therefore, to inspect the prison personally in order to ascertain if these rumours are true. Pizarro, in alarm, plans to eliminate Florestan and every trace of his presence: he orders Rocco to assassinate his enemy. But Rocco refuses to do so.
They therefore decide between them that Rocco will dig the grave and Pizarro himself will go down to the dungeons to kill Florestan. Leonore, after hearing their conversation, is in a state of anguish, ever more convinced that the mysterious prisoner is her husband, who has disappeared into thin air, leaving no
trace. She manages to convince Rocco to allow the prisoners a few moments of air: slowly and hesitantly the prisoners emerge from their cells and enjoy a brief, sad moment of sunlight,
lamenting the freedom they have lost. Then Rocco, believing himself to be confiding in his future son-in-law, reveals to Leonore the Governor’s plans and asks her to accompany him down to the dungeons and help dig a grave for the condemned prisoner. Pizarro arrives, furious that the prisoners have been allowed to take air without his permission and orders them to be locked up again immediately. But Rocco succeeds in calming
him down by suggesting that this is an excellent move as it acts as a distraction from what is planned later the same day.
Pizarro becomes more and more impatient and orders the guard to dig Florestan’s grave immediately.
 

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Act Two.
Down in the dungeon Florestan laments his fate.
Increasing fatigue and weakness give him hallucinations in which he thinks he can see Leonore coming to free him. He faints and does not notice Rocco and his helper who have entered his cell: while the guard begins to dig the grave, Leonore, in the darkness, tries to get a peep of the prisoner’s face and immediately recognises her husband. Overcome, she is unable to speak and it is Rocco who, taking pity on the prisoner, at first answers his questions. He explains that he is in Pizarro’s power and cannot help him: all he can do is to offer him a sip of wine.
Leonore, trying in vain to hide her emotion, offers Florestan a piece of bread while Rocco gives Pizarro the agreed signal that all is ready. Florestan senses that something is about to happen but Leonore tries to calm him: he must put his faith in providence.
The young woman hides in the dark crevices of the dungeon and when Pizarro comes to kill Florestan she throws herself on the Governor, pistol in hand, crying “First kill his wife!”.
For a moment everyone is so surprised by the revelation of the true identity of Fidelio that they fail to react. Before Pizarro can recover from his amazement the arrival of the Minister is proclaimed.
Rocco is relieved not to have been party to a crime and leads Pizarro out, leaving Florestan and Leonore together, free at last to give vent to their joy. The guards and prisoners gather in the courtyard to greet the Minister who announces the end of an era of tyranny and oppression. Pizarro and Rocco arrive on
the scene followed by Leonore and Florestan: Don Fernando recognises in him his long-lost friend.A few words by Rocco are sufficient to cause the arrest of the cruel Governor; Leonore herself can at last free Florestan from his chains. In a joyful finale everyone joins in a song of praise for the woman who has struggled for the liberation of her husband, for conjugal love and for their newly-won freedom.

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