BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY – Sunday, November 3, 1822

Beethoven, utterly humiliated at the dress rehearsal of Fidelio yesterday, does not attend the first performance at the Kärtnertor Theatre. He instead spends the evening at the Theatre in the Josephstadt, and his Gratulations-Menuett is played as part of a serenade for the manager of the theatre, Karl Friedrich Hensler, on the eve of his name day.

The Gratulations Minuet WoO 3 is here played by Hans Ludwig Hirsch, conducting the Philharmonia Hungarica:

At the Kärtnertor Theatre, at 6:30 PM, the revival of Beethoven’s Fidelio opens without its composer in attendance. Since it is the name day of the Empress, the performance begins with the folk song “Gott erhalte Franz.” The notices of the evening are generally excellent.

The Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung Nr.52 for Christmas Day at col.837 includes a short review of the revival. “After an absence that was far too long, Beethoven’s glorious Fidelio finally arose once more on our musical horizon, radiating like Phoebus. The Music Committee deserves the deepest thanks of all art lovers for this thoughtful choice. They have loudly expressed the glorious endeavor to present recognized masterpieces for the lasting credit of the repertoire, even if far too often tiresome economic considerations force private enterprise to indulge the degenerate tastes of the times unwillingly and against their better convictions.”

“The presentation of this classic opera was appropriate in all parts, full of life and corresponding to the spirit of the genuinely poetic. The role of Fidelio is one of Miss [Wilhelmine] Schröder’s most outstanding performances, while Miss Thekla Demmer portrays Marzelline in a very charming manner. The gentlemen – [Anton] Haizinger as Florestan, [Michael] Zeltner as Rocco, [Johann] Nestroy as Don Fernando, [Jakob Wilhelm] Rauscher as Jaquino and [Anton] Forti as Pizarro – are praiseworthy in both their singing and acting. Although the noisy instrumentation sometimes inconvenienced Forti, his fiery performance had an effect in his principal moments. The delighted audience loudly expressed their thanks for the artistic enjoyment, rewarding not only each individual with applause but required the Overture and the Jubilation Duet in the dungeon be repeated as encores.”

The Vienna AMZ reviewer in the November 9 issue at 713 had glowing praise for Fidelio, “which after a long absence has finally appeared again on the stage…The great but intense beauties in the wealth of musical ideas and especially the beautiful instrumentation of such excellent music will always excite the senses. Those who are musically educated will be particularly excited, having learned to love the work from their first or second hearing, and through the promulgation of the work through the piano reduction from Artaria & Co….As one can imagine, the numerous devotees of the great master, who admire the depth of his inventive spirit in his piano compositions, were present for the public performance to admire the beauties of a work well known to them.”

The star was singled out in this review for her performance: “The role of Fidelio was played by Dlle. Schröder who was given the difficult role, and showed really surprising dexterity. She carried the three great arias and the noble Parthia not only with a beautiful, fresh voice and careful precision, but she also played the role with such a degree of life that drama and song seemed fused in beautiful unity… The pure and sonorous depths of her voice were particularly triumphant in the second act, in the great duet, “O namenlöse Freude.” The finale of the first act was also performed quite well by her.”

“Mr. Haizinger sang the role of Florestan with diligence and precision. We’re not denying that some notes of the vocal line lie too deep for his peculiarly-formed organ, yet at the same time he knew to save his sonorous strength, and duly ration it out as needed. Florestan’s aria demands at the same time much skill. Mr. Haizinger knew the most important moments to emphasize, and excelled especially in the duet with Fidelio before the end of the second act.”

“The enthusiasm of the audience was great both with this beautiful piece of music, as well as with the canon in G of the first act [Mir ist so wunderbar]. Both are masterpieces of musical invention. The beautiful, richly-scored chorus of prisoners stirred every sense through Beethoven’s marriage of declamation and musical sophistication. This beautiful moment led the choir singers and orchestra members ever closer to becoming one with Beethoven’s work.”

The review in the Vienna Allgemeine Theater-Zeitung no. 134 for November 9 similarly approved, “Beethoven’s masterwork of opera, thus far his only creation in this genre, has returned to the stage with studied effort and diligence. It was met with great success and received with invigorating pleasure…The performance of the overture already showed the zeal by which the rehearsal of this opera had been driven. It made such a general and lively impression that a repetition was impetuously demanded, and the second time it was given with the same precision.”

“Dem. Schröder played the part of Fidelio with such diligence, effort and fire that it surprised the listener, even if one is used to extremely lively and brilliant representations of it. She is well on the way to becoming an excellent declamatory singer. Her voice gains in strength every day, and her performance likewise grows in truth and effect. It is not enough for her to produce a uniform development of all her tones and to produce an equally clear attack on every chord, even with faster notes; she is not to be prevented in any way from a perfect delivery of every song, including the Parthie. It is not too much to say that she not only exceeded her own, but exceeded all expectations of the audience. Proof of the strength and stamina of the young singer was seen in the repetition of the duet, which she sang triumphantly to the last note with Mr. Haizinger, even though she had just before gone through immense effort with the quartet. Dem. Schröder was unanimously summoned for an ovation at the end, and Herr Haizinger appeared with her. This industrious singer played the part of the prisoner [Florestan] with all attentiveness, and although his voice and singing are rather more suitable for high bravura parts than a solemn and declamatory prisoner, he nevertheless took his place with honor, and sang the famous duet in particular with ravishing fire.”

“Mr. Zeltner’s portrayal of the jailer was excellent. The Parthia is a trial by fire for the singer. Anyone who, like Herr Zeltner, does not allow himself to be swayed by the difficult intonation, even in the most beautiful and correct of performances, has survived it with all honors….Mr. Forti, as the governor, sang particularly well in the duet with Rone, the choirmaster, in the first act.In the quartet in the dungeon he was only faintly audible. Demmer as Marcelline and Herr Rauscher as Jaquino did well enough in their part, and they especially contribute to the beautiful performance of the wonderfully canonical quartet of the first act [Mir ist so wunderbar]. It was so much fun, it had to be repeated. The choruses, too, were performed with great precision to everyone’s satisfaction.”

The opera will be repeated tomorrow night, and the composer will attend (in the audience) with nephew Karl.