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BeethovenA Political Artist in Revolutionary Times$
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William Kinderman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226669052

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226669199.001.0001

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Leonore as “Angel of Freedom”

Leonore as “Angel of Freedom”

(p.110) Chapter V Leonore as “Angel of Freedom”

William Kinderman

University of Chicago Press

Beethoven's only opera Fidelio is a gritty tale of rescue rooted in actual events from the post-Revolutionary era. The three versions of Fidelio shed light on the composer's political convictions and his inclination to find inspiration in French Revolutionary models. Beethoven's models for the final 1814 version of the opera also included Schiller's play on Jeanne d'Arc and his own music to Goethe's drama Egmont, whereas his irritation with Mozart's opera Così fan tutte lurks behind his exalted depiction of his disguised heroine Leonore. Some instrumental works, notably the "Appassionata" Sonata, op. 57, harbor affinities to Fidelio and French sources, in this case, a thematic kinship to the Marseillaise. The music of the dungeon scenes in Fidelio is suggestive, allowing the climactic conclusion of Florestan's aria and the ensuing melodrama to be experienced as simultaneous complementary perspectives. Angelic symbolism enriches the prisoner's delirious vision, before Leonore gains access to the forbidden chamber and holds Pizarro at bay, knocking the tyrant off his pedestal. Leonore's musical dominance over her adversary is asserted as she reveals herself as a woman, singing "Weib!" ("wife!") to an unaccompanied note at the top of her vocal range. Fidelio celebrates the ideals of the French Revolution.

Keywords:   Reign of Terror, angelic symbolism, prisoners' chorus, overthrow of tyrant, angel of freedom

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