Leonore takes a fearless stand between death and her husband. Rising above fear, she brings about the great happy outcome – for a fairy-tale always tells of hope.
Alternatively: Leonore refuses to allow evil and the devil to assume power over her life – over all life; therefore she must ultimately confront justified fear, face to face. This clears the way for the liberation of everyone and for the downfall of evil.
This well-known story with uncomplicated characters not only makes Beethoven’s music thrilling, overwhelming, but takes the protagonists into a more complex level and turns the plot into a challenge to our future. Without the text, which sets the characters in a specific everyday world, the music would be in danger of becoming art pour l’art; conversely, without the music, the characters would descend into kitsch.
Without the text, the hope expressed in the music would be merely a noble idea, applied to the simple characters, but still hope for a better tomorrow. Starting from the characters, the music evokes something specific, something sorely missed.
Fidelio is a tale told through Beethoven’s boundless longing to take ‘brotherliness’ into our present time. It attempts to capture a utopia of humanity that appeared so great on the horizon but has long since melted away.
The characters in Fidelio are at first quite ordinary characters, as in a fairy-tale – but as in a fairy-tale, also a great deal more.
When you’re telling the story or reading it aloud, this “more” is no problem. The listeners’ imagination – according to their individual notions, experience or dreams – brings the characters to life.
Represented by real people in film or on stage, the characters may materialise the notions of the audience, but the inevitable substantiality of actual persons prevents the transformation into the hoped-for fairy-tale realm of the future, usually rendering the effect ludicrous.
Puppets and marionettes do not have this limitation. They are, initially, merely a piece of wood, and only the audience’s imagination can bring them to life. Marionettes can fly with ease – their gravity lies above them. And they can die a splendid death, since dead wood is no longer animated – simply dead..
Thus the story is told of a prison and its inhabitants, prisoners and guards – probably a lousy job, though perhaps pensionable, where they try to make their subjected existence liveable, with a touch of humour and longing for a little bit of domesticity, and by hoarding some cash. Into this closed world, where even the trees are barred, comes a woman ready to fight for love. The heart of whoever encounters her begins to stir into new life.
A great tale, despite – or rather, against – the failure of the French Revolution, despite Napoleon’s delusions of grandeur, despite all the evil in the world, and against the ebbing away of all hope – our raison de vivre.
The heroine must go on, must venture onwards and down into deepest darkness, through greatest fear, to the ultimate point where life and death meet. Only there is salvation possible.
–Thanks and celebration all round, and life is wonderful! And they all live happily ever after…