review: Fidelio

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It was not until "Komm, Hoffnung" that dramatic momentum began to assert itself. For some reason, there were natural horns and trumpets, so the bravura concertante passages in this aria were full of snarls and sneers as the horn players squeezed their notes into tune. This did not deter the Leonora, Anne Evans. She sang with abundant warmth and sincerity, her excitement growing with the rustic clamour of the horns.

In fact, Evans was the only artist who exploited the different opportunities offered by the concert hall, as opposed to the opera house. She leaned forward and addressed the audience, alert and communicative, while the other artists seemed to be thinking of the blocking of some distant producer. The Pizarro, especially (Franz-Josef Kapellmann), elbowed and shoved his way around the beat, and Heinz Kruse sang Florestan with a fiercely focused, hectoring tone that banished all tenderness and regret, making "O namenlose Freude" sound stagey and melodramatic.

It was hard to think why this standard piece needed to be performed at all, since nobody - Evans excepted - had anything special to offer. And yet, there was one moment of revelation: the line-of-battle roar of the Festival Chorus stressed the kinship of the opera's closing bars to an oratorio or a liturgical work, Beethoven's great choral hymn to happy conjugal love, a blessing he could only dream of.