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Fidelio is an opera in two acts by Beethoven. Text from the French of Bouilly by Sonnleithner. First production, Vienna, 1805.

The opera at first contained three acts, afterward condensed to two by Breuning, at which time Beethoven wrote a new overture (Leonore III). In this form the opera was produced in 1806 under the title "Leonore," but was again revised by Treitschke in 1814. This representation, under the original title "Fidelio," was preceded by the well-known Fidelio overture, the fourth written by the composer for the opera.


Place, a Spanish States prison in the vicinity of Seville.

Don Florestan, a courtier of noble character and a favourite of the king, determines to thwart the traitorous designs of Don Pizarro, who thereby becomes his bitter enemy. Florestan mysteriously disappears, and all search is fruitless. Leonore, his faithful wife, suspects that Pizarro has captured him, and, disguised as a youth under the name of Fidelio, she enters the service of Rocco, the jailor of the States prison of which Pizarro is the governor. To her horror she finds that she is not mistaken. She runs great risk of discovery, as the daughter of Rocco falls in love with the supposed youth, and Rocco, with whom she has also found favour, desires to unite them. Léonore is enabled to visit the underground dungeons and finds her husband. The cruel Pizarro has condemned him to death by famine, but determines to hasten his end, as the powerful minister, Don Fernando, a friend of Florestan, is coming to inspect the prison. Rocco and Fidelio are compelled to dig a grave, as Pizarro intends to murder Florestan before the minister arrives. Leonore succeeds in saving her husband with the aid of Don Fernando, who arrives opportunely. The villain Pizarro receives his well-deserved punishment.

ACT I. Courtyard of the prison. (Duet between Jaquino and Marzelline: "Now, darling, we are alone.") Jaquino is ready to marry Marzelline, but she loves the new assistant, Fidelio. Fidelio is in reality Leonore disguised as a youth. Her husband, Florestan, has disappeared. She suspects Pizarro and believes that Florestan is in the prison. Having gained the confidence of Rocco, she hopes to find her husband. Marzelline desires to win Fidelio's love. (Aria: "Would I were wed to thee.") Rocko is willing (Quartet, Marzelline, Leonore, Rocco, Jaquino: "I feel so strange"; Rocko's aria counselling thrift: "Has one not also gold besides?"). Leonore agrees to everything in order to be allowed to visit the prison, which, however, requires the consent of the governor. (Terzett: "Good, son, good, always have courage.") Pizarro appears, filled with anxiety, as he has imprisoned Florestan from motives of personal vengeance; and to prevent discovery of this he determines that Florestan must die before the minister's inspection. As Rocco refuses to murder the dying man, he is ordered to uncover an old well in which the prisoner is to be buried. Pizarro himself resolves to do the deed. (Aria of Pizarro: "Ha, what a moment! My vengeance will I cool"; Duet: "Now old man, be quick.") Leonore has been listening and is in despair. (Aria: "Wicked one, whither do you go?") Rocco allows the prisoners to breathe the air at the request of Leonore, who wishes to see her husband. (Finale, chorus of prisoners: "Oh, what joy, in heaven's fresh air.") She cannot find Florestan, but accompanies Rocco to the underground cells, and helps him dig the grave. Pizarro returns and orders the prisoners back to their cells. (Second chorus of prisoners: "Farewell, warm sunlight.")

ACT II. The dark dungeon of Florestan. (Aria: "God, how dark, this dreadful quiet.") He sinks to the ground from weakness, when Rocco and Leonore arrive. (Melodrama: "How cold in this dark dungeon.") Leonore recognises him, but dares not speak and helps to dig the grave. (Duet: "Be brisk and dig cheerily.") Florestan revives and Leonore gives him bread. (Terzett: "May a better world reward you.") Pizarro descends to the dungeon, and is about to stab Florestan, when Leonore throws herself before her husband, and crying, "First kill his wife," points a pistol at Pizarro. This saves her husband, for trumpet calls, heralding the appearance of the minister, are heard, and Pizarro hurries away. (Quartet: "He shall die, but first know who crushes his false heart.") In the following duet ("Oh! endless joy"), Florestan and Leonore express their happiness. Change of scene: Courtyard of the castle. Fernando announces the king's pardon. (Chorus: "Hail to the day, hail to the hour.") Leonore takes the chains from her husband, he is free, and Pizarro is arrested. (Fernando: "You freed him from the grave," and closing chorus: "He who a lovely wife has won.")

References and external links: Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

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