Beethoven and the Heroic ; Part 2: Leonore
Notes by Fred Haight
Part 2: Leonore
No-one ever portrayed a woman more heroically then Beethoven. His only opera, Fidelio, is about a woman named Leonore, who courageously disguises herself as a boy, goes into prison, risking her life, in order to rescue her husband, Florestan, who is a political prisoner. The opera was inspired by the real-life story of Adrienne LaFayette, who went into an Austrian prison, to free her husband, The Marquis de LaFayette, a hero of the American Revolution.
An Overture condenses the highlights of the entire opera into a few minutes. Beethoven was so concerned to capture her quality correctly, that he composed three different versions of a Leonore Overture to get it right. We offer here, Leonore 3, in our opinion, the best of the three.
Beethoven’s enthusiasm led to a very long overture, and he ended up composing a fourth, shorter one called the Fidelio Overture. Leonore 3 is so great though, that in the early 20th century, composer/opera conductor Gustav Mahler started using it to introduce the third act of the opera. That practice became standard.