Our understanding of Beethoven's initial effort in opera, the 1805 version of Fidelio, is significantly clouded by certain difficulties in establishing its text. An especially obscure point is Florestan's aria at the beginning of the third act. Simply put, no surviving source transmits the aria as it was performed in 1805. In order to publish a complete, performable text for the opera, the editors of the Ur-Leonore, Erich Prieger and Willy Hess, present the aria in a version that conflates 1805 and 1806 sources. To shed some light on the lost 1805 version of the aria and on Beethoven's understanding of the piece, the present paper turns to the so-called Leonore sketchbook of 1804-5. The latest stages of 1805 sketches reveal a version that comprises three sections corresponding to basic shifts of perspective in the poem: an Adagio in A♭ major for Florestan's reflections on the meaning of his suffering; a Moderato in F major for the remembrance of his life with Leonore; and an Andante in F minor for his stoic advice to the distant beloved. Was this three-tempo version in fact performed at the premiere? This question cannot be answered definitively, but various bits of evidence, including the overture of 1805, sources for the 1806 revision, and the testimony of the tenor who sang the part of Florestan in 1806, suggest that the version performed in 1805 may have approximated the three-tempo version in the Leonore sketchbook. Further, the sources for the 1806 version suggest that the limitations of the tenor who sang the role of Florestan in 1805 lay behind a number of revisions.
- Copyright 1993 The American Musicological Society, Inc.