On 20 November 1805, Theater an der Wien hosted a performance of Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven. It was conducted by the composer himself, but the work did not gain the favour of the audience. Vienna was occupied by Napoleon’s army and the audience consisted mostly of French officers who did not know German. They were bored with incomprehensible, long dialogues between the musical and vocal parts. In addition, there were problems with Beethoven’s deafness, which did not stop him from conducting the premiere. The audience was sleepy and had no enthusiasm, and during the second performance the theatre was almost empty. After several evenings the opera had to be taken off the poster.The unsuccessful premiere started Beethoven’s work on the final shape of Fidelio, which became one of the few opera masterpieces admired by audiences and critics around the world.
The premiere of Fidelio in Łódź had a completely different fate than the premiere. The opera about the desire for freedom, tolerance and respect for others in our Theatre became a historical event not only for artistic reasons… It was June 1982, the situation in Poland was difficult and here, on the sounds of the overture with its characteristic whirring, symbolically rises the Iron Curtain!… And then – just more and more powerful impressions, stronger emotions and irresistible associations with the everyday reality of that time! The German director Wolfgang Weit with his staging perfectly matched the place of that time, and Tadeusz Kozłowski with Beethoven’s music clearly highlighted the whole situation.The performers – Teresa May-Czyżowska (Leonora), Janusz Zipser (Florestan), Zdzisław Krzywicki (Rocco) and everyone else from the very first sounds were aware that they were participating in something exceptional, unique and thus historical.There was no end to standing ovations and only the management of the Theatre was wondering… what the consequences would be.
Ludvig van Beethoven, oil on canvas 1820, author: Joseph Karl Stieler