Opera written by Ludwig van Beethoven on a libretto by Joseph Ferdinand von Sonnleithner, Stephan von Breuning and Georg Friedrich Treitschke.
In a political prison governed by the despotic Don Pizarro, Rocco is the jailer. Rocco's daughter, Marzelline, is very dismissive of Jacquino, the governor's young assistant, following the arrival of a new young prison officer, Fidelio, with whom she has fallen in love. Rocco approves of his daughter's choice. Nobody has the slightest idea that beneath his uniform, the capable and industrious Fidelio is actually Leonore, a woman who has taken on the role, with all its hardships, in order to find and free her husband, Florestan, whom Pizarro has thrown into prison. When Pizarro learns that the minister, Don Fernando, is on his way to inspect the prison, he decides to remove Florestan once and for all. He orders Rocco to dig a grave in Florestan's dungeon. Leonore persuades Rocco to take her into this secret dungeon, where she suspects her husband is being held. The other prisoners are let out briefly into the prison yard. Their hope of rescue, justice and freedom is the only light in their gloomy existence.
Florestan, broken by imprisonment and delirious with near starvation, sees a vision of his wife Leonore appearing as an angel and leading him to freedom. He does not notice Rocco and Fidelio making all the preparations for his murder, an act that will be carried out by Pizarro personally. Leonore is appalled when she realises that the man in chains is indeed her husband. At a predetermined signal, Pizarro enters the dungeon to kill his enemy, Florestan, but at the last moment Fidelio leaps between them, revealing himself to be Leonore and preventing the murder. The sound of a trumpet heralds salvation in the arrival of the minister, Don Fernando. Leonore and Florestan fall into each other's arms. The newly-freed prisoners and their wives praise the day that has brought them their freedom. Don Fernando recognises Florestan as an old friend whom he had given up for dead, and has Pizarro led away for punishment. Leonore is allowed to remove Florestan's chains herself, and everyone rejoices at the heroism she has shown.
Stage director and actress Katharina Thalbach, remains true to the original text, presenting it in a somewhat abridged version that has also been adapted to contemporary speech patterns.
Toffolutti believes that every character has his own history and that this should be reflected in his costume. Leonore, who sacrifices her femininity with an almost impertinent courage to save Florestan, has a costume that is reminiscent of a hero of a Western. Her only mark of femininity is her blonde hair concealed under a cap. Marzelline seems to have come straight out of a Goya painting in her red dress, whilst Pizarro, the personification of evil, makes his entrance in an elegant linen suit. Florestan, who according to the libretto has been imprisoned for two years, has virtually become one with his costume; the outline of his body is no longer to be seen and he is scarcely recognisable as a human being; he resembles an object by Joseph Beuys.
Michael Richard Küster
Michael Boder, Stein Winge – Graham Clark (The Clerk, A Scrivener), Robert Brubaker (Prince Vasili Golitzin) – Gran Teatre del Liceu
Michel Plasson, Benoît Jacquot – Jonas Kaufmann (Werther), Sophie Koch (Charlotte)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Gulbenkian Choir