Emma Bell 1280x680 © Paul Foster-Williams

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Following the first, unsuccessful performance ofFidelio in 1805, Beethoven revised his opera. A second version, now cut to two acts, was staged at the Theater an der Wien in 1806 — with greater success, but with no demand for further performances. He revised his opera a second time in 1814 for the Kärntnertortheater with the successful theatre director Georg Friedrich Treitschke: the plot was further trimmed and the libretto revised by Treitschke. However, this work — nearly ten years after the premiere — cost Beethoven a great deal of effort. In a letter to Treitschke in early March 1814 he wrote: “I would be quicker writing something new than now writing new music to go with the old […]. The score of the opera is more miserably written than I have ever seen, I have to peruse it note by note, […] in short, I assure you, my dear T., the opera will earn me the martyr’s crown”. The story of Leonore, the faithful wife who finds a place with Rocco the gaoler in order to rescue her wrongly imprisoned husband Florestan, remained unchanged, however. In the end, though, the laborious reworkings paid off: the premiere was a huge success and this version of Fidelio conquered the stages of Europe.