With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Georg Solti led Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in March 1970 in Chicago and again in May 1979, with concerts in Chicago and New York City.

March 12, 14, and 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
Leonore Anja Silja, soprano
Marzelline Lucia Popp, soprano
Florestan Jess Thomas, tenor
Jaquino Frank Porretta, tenor
Don Pizarro Herbert Fliether, baritone
Rocco Kurt Boehme, bass
Don Fernando Thomas Paul, bass
Two Prisoners William Wahman, tenor and Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Fidelio rehearsal in Orchestra Hall, May 1979 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

May 10 and 12, 1979, at Orchestra Hall
May 19, 1979, at Carnegie Hall
Leonore Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Marzelline Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Florestan Peter Hofmann, tenor
Jaquino David Kübler, tenor
Don Pizarro Theo Adam, baritone
Rocco Hans Sotin, bass
Don Fernando Gwynne Howell, bass
Two Prisoners Robert Johnson, tenor and Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Following the performance in Carnegie Hall, the opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

In Gramophone, W.S.M. wrote: “No comparative sets are listed above because in one sense, this new Fidelio is at present hors concours: it is the first digitally recorded opera to be released, and in an ensemble opera the new technique pays handsome dividends. . . .

“This Decca/Solti suggests a large studio with a quite reverberant acoustic, actually the Medinah Temple in Chicago. For the outdoor scenes it works well, the garden with sparring lovers, the spacious fresh-air into which the prisoners emerge, later the square where they are freed (at least we hope so) and dramatic complications are resolved. The dungeon scene doesn’t actually sound misplaced, in the literal sense, but neither does it suggest a different, cramped, deep, awesome location. This is not a theatrical representation, or we would hear the guards enter and leave, steps ascended and descended, doors opened, perhaps the rattle of chains, something to suggest that Fidelio is not just an oratorio. . . .

Solti and Margaret Hillis listen to Fidelio playbacks

“Solti views Fidelio steadily and whole; intent on the menace and the ultimate victory of humanity. His tempi are steady, for the most part, only in the duet for Pizarro and Rocco seemingly too slow for the singers. He seldom needs to add ritardandi or accelerandi as other Fidelio conductors do, and he is able to care for nuance and details of part-writing, for example in the canon quartet. Here too each new vocal entry is truly soils tore, a wonderful effect of rapt self-communion, until Jaquino’s, not rapt at all but infuriated, therefore loud, but soon blending into the others. The Prisoners’ Chorus shows the Solti approach at its finest and most moving. If the Florestan were tip to the rest, I would count this the most desirable of recorded Fidelios.”