I'm not sure quite how this happened, but somehow the Deutsche Grammophon Fidelio DVD, featuring the divine Karita Mattila, sat unopened in my house for several months before I got around to watching it. Very odd. And even that was some time ago - and I haven't watched it again since - but still, I ought to say something.
Karita is somebody I think is absolutely wonderful, and to whom I very rarely listen. I only own one CD, her fabulous 40th birthday concert in Finland. She goes from 'Dich teure Halle' through to 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend', with some Sibelius and some J. Strauss II thrown in. Everything performed to perfection (though she's really not an Adele) and the programme holds together very well. Besides, anyone who wears a pink and black polka dot dress on their album cover wins my admiration. Other than that, I've spent two weeks in the company of her German Romantic Arias CD, which I borrowed from the library; and heard to her in the Met broadcast of Kat'a Kabanova (while sitting in a hotel carpark in Nelson, in summer, with all the windows rolled up - but that's another story) - and nothing else. Until this Fidelio.
It was also my very first Fidelio. I knew a couple of the arias - 'Abscheulicher' via Kirsten Flagstad, and 'O wär ich schon' which somehow - and I can't actually figure out exactly how - I seem to have known since childhood. But it's always been something I never quite felt I had the energy for. I'm really terribly lazy, you know - I'm still that way about Wagner, even though he rewards me fabulously when I do make the effort.
Anyway, I watched the DVD and I liked it very much. Karita is a miracle. I've read so many people waxing so very lyrical over her, and while I've never had any trouble believing them, it was still nice to witness the Wunder myself. She's a joy to watch and to hear and a seriously convincing boy - in fact so convincing that by the time Leonore revealed herself, I was having about as much trouble believing it as poor little Marzelline. Who I thought was very prettily sung by a rather sweet Jennifer Welch-Babidge. She also made a nice vocal contrast with Karita, the two easily discernable in the ensembles. Ben Heppner is excellent, if not quite the dramatic whirlwind which is La Mattila; René Pape's compelling Rocco impressed me even more. And I think the updated production is effective. It's not in your face or terribly pretentious, it's just there - you can think about all the deeper meanings and thought-provoking-ness of it, or you can not, and just enjoy a good-looking and always interesting production - it works both ways.