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date: 05 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter revisits “the curious incident” involving Beethoven’s opera Fidelio and attempts to solve mysteries regarding its reception and political significance. The chapter examines the delay in the first performance of Fidelio, after librettist Joseph Sonnleithner was informed that the opera could be performed if the “harshest scenes” were altered. It reviews the context in which the Austrian police tried to censor Fidelio in 1805; whether the revised version of the opera confirmed the conservative goals of the Congress of Vienna and reinforced the role of traditional monarchy; and how Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, who first sang the role of Leonore in 1822, neutralized Fidelio’s revolutionary politics by focusing on the secondary theme of marital love. The chapter also examines how the episode has influenced the prevailing interpretation of Fidelio as a political opera.

Keywords: Fidelio, opera, Ludwig van Beethoven, censorship, Joseph Sonnleithner, Congress of Vienna, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, politics, marital love, Austria

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