Leonore No. 3

During his mature period (1802-1812), when his most significant works of all genres were created, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN decided in 1803 to write an opera. He chose  Jean-Nicolas Bouilly’s dramatic work Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love, although there was an opera already written on this text by French composer Pierre Gaveaux, produced in Paris in 1798. And in 1804, while Beethoven was already busy on his work, another opera was produced in Dresden: Leonore, or or Conjugal Love by Italian composer Ferdinando Paer. The German libretto was written by Joseph Sonnleithner, a Viennese literary figure, who made an extensive revision of the original French text. In 1805, the opera was completed and presented on 20 November at the Theater an der Wien under the title Leonore. For this premiere, the composer created a second overture – Leonore No. 2. However, the production was discontinued after just three performances due to the indifferent response. Beethoven decided to recast the work and it lay to his close friend Stefan Breuning to effect the revisions in the libretto, abridging it to two acts. A new overture was written – which gained prominence under the title LEONORE No. 3, which was to remain most frequently performed on the concert stage. The second version of the opera was produced on 29 March 1806, but it did not meet with success. Beethoven abandoned the work for a long time, and it was not until the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies were completed that he felt again the desire to revise his only opera. This time, the text was to be rewritten by Friedrich Treitschke, experienced playwright, writer and stage director. The composer wrote a new, fourth overture, to the third edition, known today as Fidelio, much shorter than its precedents. The third time the opera was produced, it was under the title Fidelio and the performance took place at the Kärntnertortheater in the days when the Vienna Congress was held – 22 May 1814, and the opera this time had a great success. More productions followed – in Prague, under the direction of Carl Maria von Weber, and then in Berlin. But Fidelio’s real fame ensued after the 1822 production with Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient in the role of Leonore, A gifted singer, Schröder-Devrient was only nineteen at the time and later went on to rise as a renowned Wagner performer.

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