Beethoven – Overture to Fidelio Op. 72

Overture to Fidelio Op. 72 (1814)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -1827)

Beethoven revolutionised instrumental music by introducing to it a level of personal emotion that had never before been present in music. He also held theatrical music in high regard, but, despite being offered more than 30 librettos, only managed to complete one opera, eventually known as Fidelio. Two earlier attempts under the title Leonore met with little success. Beethoven composed no fewer than four overtures for this opera. The two Leonore overtures (numbers 2 and 3) are dramatic orchestral works in their own right, rather than having the more usual role of introducing the opera that follows. (No. 1 was written for an 1807 performance that never eventuated). When Fidelio was revived in 1814, Beethoven wrote another overture, this time better suited to introducing the opera.

Fidelio is based on a French play from the revolutionary period in which Leonore rescues her political prisoner husband by disguising herself as a man. Although not based on the music in the opera, the overture evocatively illustrates its main themes: the ideals of marital love, freedom and the defeat of tyranny.

Performed: June 2017

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