November 20th, 1805 – Beethoven’s “Fidelio”

Today-In-History

On November 20th, 1805Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio premiered in Vienna.

Fidelio 680

Fidelio (originally named Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe; English: Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love), Op. 72, is a German opera with spoken dialogue by Ludwig van Beethoven, his only opera. The German libretto was originally prepared by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly and the work premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on November 20th, 1805. The next year Stephan von Breuning helped shorten the three acts to two. After further work on the libretto by Georg Friedrich Treitschke a final version performed at the Kärntnertortheater on May 23rd, 1814. By convention both of the first two versions are referred to as Leonore.

The opera tells how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio”, rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison. Bouilly’s scenario fits Beethoven’s aesthetic and political outlook: a story of personal sacrifice, heroism and eventual triumph (the usual topics of Beethoven’s “middle period”) with its underlying struggle for liberty and justice mirroring contemporary political movements in Europe. Some notable moments in the opera include the “Prisoners’ Chorus”, an ode to freedom sung by a chorus of political prisoners, Florestan’s vision of Leonore come as an angel to rescue him, and the scene in which the rescue finally takes place. The finale celebrates Leonore’s bravery with alternating contributions of soloists and chorus.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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