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Highlights from Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera, this week on The Lyric Stage

Beethoven blamed the failure of Fidelio’s first perfomances in 1805 on the tenor, although no one else agreed - there were more serious problems, length and Beethoven's handling of the exposition being only two. But Beethoven was firm, and to prove his point that no revision of text or music was needed, just a new, improved tenor, Beethoven had the tenor sing the aria des lebens Frulingstagen repeated times, and threatened to withdraw the opera if anyone so much as touched a note of it.

  Eventually he was persuaded to do more revision, but that version ran only two performances. Beethoven then argued with the manager of the Theater der an die Wien. The manager refused to give Beethoven his promised portion of the box office, telling the composer that the opera did not draw as well as the opera's of Mozart, with their more popular appeal, therefore he didn't have the money. The less than favorable comparison to Mozart did it for Beethoven, and he demanded his score back, and did not touch it for another 8 years.


Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.