Fidelio





In two acts by L. van BEETHOVEN.





This opera, the only one by the greatest of German composers, is also

one of the most exquisite we possess. The music is so grand and

sublime, so passionate and deep, that it enters into the heart of the

hearer. The libretto is also full of the highest and most beautiful

feeling.



Florestan, a Spanish nobleman, has dared to blame Don Pizarro, the

governor of the state-prison, a man as cruel as he is powerful.

Pizarro has thus become Florestan's deadly foe, he has seized him

secretly and thrown him into a dreadful dungeon, reporting his death to

the Minister.



But this poor prisoner has a wife, Leonore, who is as courageous as she

is faithful. She never believes in the false reports, but disguising

herself in male attire, resolves not to rest until she has found her

husband.



In this disguise we find her in the first act; she has contrived to get

entrance into the fortress where she supposes her husband

imprisoned, and by her gentle and courteous behaviour, and readiness

for service of all kinds has won not only the heart of Rocco, the

jailer, but that of his daughter Marcelline, who falls in love with the

gentle youth and neglects her former lover Jaquino. Fidelio persuades

Rocco to let her help him in his office with the prisoners. Quivering

with mingled hope and fear she opens the prison gates, to let the state

prisoners out into the court, where they may for once have air and

sunshine.



But seek as she may, she cannot find her husband and in silent despair

she deems herself baffled.



Meanwhile Pizarro has received a letter from Sevilla, announcing the

Minister's forthcoming visit to the fortress. Pizarro, frightened at

the consequences of such a call, resolves to silence Florestan for

ever. He orders the jailer to kill him, but the old man will not

burden his soul with a murder and refuses firmly. Then Pizarro himself

determines to kill Florestan, and summons Rocco to dig a grave in the

dungeon, in order to hide all traces of the crime.



Rocco, already looking upon the gentle and diligent Fidelio as his

future son-in-law, confides to him his dreadful secret, and with

fearful forebodings she entreats him to accept her help in the heavy

work. Pizarro gives his permission, Rocco being too old and feeble to

do the work quickly enough if alone; Pizarro has been rendered furious

by the indulgence granted to the prisoners at Fidelio's entreaty,

but a feeling of triumph overcomes every other, when he sees Rocco

depart for the dungeon with his assistant.



Here we find poor Florestan chained to a stone; he is wasted to a

skeleton as his food has been reduced in quantity week by week by the

cruel orders of his tormentor. He is gradually losing his reason; he

has visions and in each one beholds his beloved wife.



When Leonore recognizes him, she well-nigh faints, but with a

supernatural effort of strength she rallies, and begins her work. She

has a piece of bread with her, which she gives to the prisoner and with

it the remainder of Rocco's wine. Rocco, mild at heart, pities his

victim sincerely, but he dares not act against the orders of his

superior, fearing to lose his position, or even his life.



While Leonore refreshes the sick man, Rocco gives a sign to Pizarro,

that the work is done, and bids Fidelio leave; but she only hides

herself behind a stone-pillar, waiting with deadly fear for the coming

event and decided to save her husband or to die with him.



Pizarro enters, secretly resolved to kill not only his foe, but also

both witnesses of his crime. He will not kill Florestan however

without letting him know, who his assailant is. So he loudly shouts

his own much-feared name, but while he raises his dagger, Leonore

throws herself between him and Florestan, shielding the latter with her

breast. Pizarro, stupefied like Florestan, loses his presence of

mind. Leonore profits by it and presents a pistol at him, with which

she threatens his life, should he attempt another attack. At this

critical moment the trumpets sound, announcing the arrival of the

Minister, and Pizarro, in impotent wrath is compelled to retreat. They

are all summoned before the Minister, who is shocked at seeing his old

friend Florestan in this sad state, but not the less delighted with and

full of reverence for the noble courage of Leonore.



Pizarro is conducted away in chains, and the faithful wife with her own

hands removes the fetters, which still bind the husband for whom she

has just won freedom and happiness.



Marcelline, feeling inclined to be ashamed of her mistake, returns to

her simple and faithful lover Jaquino.





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