Fidelio

In this and the next two posts, I hope, eventually, in some small way, to depict the three pillars of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio. These are Florestan’s despair in captivity, all-conquering married love and fulfilled hope in freedom.

The language of music and the language of words are one and the same.

Florestan’s Agony

In longing loneliness his love still lives,
Tho’ spurn’d – such painful pangs – in darken’d gloom
By faith, whose terse pursuit of others gives
No quarter, not a space or sharing room
For heaven’s peace to spread its cloaking calm.

Deep prison, where sweet light is but a dream
Cast by thy face. O for a healing balm
To ease these tethers’ sores, a soothing cream!
Small hopes obsess as empty echoes cease.

In closing senses, sleep with nothingness relieves.
No dawn, no hand to smooth old age’s crease
Or lift the burden of the sighs he heaves.

Doubt rents the soul, to yield’s mistaken.
Love is Leonora, death, forsaken.

3 thoughts on “Fidelio

  1. Richard, you will excuse my ignorance. Are these your words–your poetry–your depiction? Or are they part of the libretto? And why are you posting this? What is your interest in Beethoven’s only opera?

  2. A story which begins with the heartbreak of a political prisoner leads to freedom through the determination and loyal love of his wife.

    Beethoven turns this, through his music, into a vital, inspired urging upon us of the importance and contradictory nature of freedom. Without freedom, life is nothing, for it is granted to us by God, Yet, in varying degrees, we all seek to deprive others of their liberty. Immediately the relation between freedom and the bonds of married love becomes apparent.

    Beethoven wished dearly to be married, but it never happened. So, for him, freedom came only through death. He was not only a genius but also a man of undaunted courage and ceaseless determination to overcome. This is part of his genius.

    The unresolved extreme tragedy is that of poor Marzelline, the prison governor’s daughter, who falls in love with Leonora, who comes dressed as a man, Fidelio, to gain access to Florestan.

    Here is a translation of the libretto for the aria. My sonnet is a puny response to Beethoven’s genius, which never ceases to refresh and instruct.

    God!!! What deep darkness here!
    O horrifying stillness.
    O woe, I sink in tears.
    Nothing living, black death stalks near.

    O bitter ordeal!
    But justice is God’s righteous Will!
    I grumble not!
    I endure misery, without fear.

    In my bygone youthful spring days
    Sweet happiness bereft me!
    Truth I dared to boldly display,
    And cold shackles reward me.

    Willingly I bear my torment,
    Die with shame, a dolorous end.
    Sweetest comfort to my drear laments,
    Sweetest, sweetest comfort to my drear laments,
    Noble Duty, yes, noble Justice I did defend!

    And do I not feel now
    A soft whispering wind?
    And does not a light shine in my grave?
    I see how an angel
    Of bright rosy tint
    Comforts me by my side,
    To me she comes to save.

    An angel Leonora, Leonora,
    To my wife she’s so alike!
    To lead me to freedom,
    To God’s good kingdom!

    And do I not feel now
    A soft whispering wind?
    I see how an angel
    Of bright rosy tint.
    An angel, an angel, comforts me
    To me she comes to save.

    An angel Leonora, Leonora,
    She’s so alike my wife!
    Lead, lead, lead me to freedom!
    To freedom! To God’s good kingdom!
    To freedom! To freedom!
    To God’s good kingdom!

    Lead, lead, lead me to freedom!
    To freedom! To God’s good kingdom!
    To freedom! To freedom!
    To God’s good kingdom!
    To God’s good kingdom!
    To God’s good kingdom!

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