Music: Faithful to Fidelio

The new opera at Vienna's Theater an der Wien was a flop. The orchestra fumbled, the soprano bumbled, the tenor went flat. Critics dismissed the score as long, repetitive and gnarled with outlandish complexities. The production closed after three nights, reopened the following year, folded again after four more performances. The talented 35-year-old composer set the work aside for eight years. Then he undertook extensive revisions. "Hardly a musical number has been left unchanged," he wrote to a Vienna newspaper, "ard more than half the opera was composed anew." Finally, in May 1814,...

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