Music: Journeyman Fidelio

"Of all my children," said the dying Beethoven, "this is the one that has cost me the worst birth pangs." The "child" was Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera and one of his least successful works in his own lifetime. A failure at its first performance in Vienna in 1805, it did not win an audience until 1814, when it was presented in completely revised form. The work is hampered by a naive plot, an inconsistency of style (the first act is virtually light opera, the second grand opera), and vocal parts of fiendish difficulty.

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