What Beethoven's Fidelio Teaches
Us About Hope
THE AMERICAN RESISTANCE NEEDS BEETHOVEN
by Susan W. Bowen
November 10, 1990
by Friedrich Schiller
All people discuss it and dream on end
Schiller Institute in New Jersey celebrates William Warfield's 80th birthday, and the release of Mike Billington's release from 10 years of unjust imprisonment
Fidelio: A small example of How Beautiful Music Educates the Soul
An edited version of this article appeared in New Federalist newspaper in November, 1990.
On Easter Sunday 1989, two months after American statesman Lyndon H. LaRouche was jailed by the U.S. Department of Justice, his wife, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, called for an international mobilization to secure his release, under the banner of Operation Florestan. "Easter stands for hope, hope for the triumph of good over evil," Mrs. LaRouche wrote. "Therefore, I am appealing to you on this day, to you very personally: Help me to free my husband! Your destiny is more closely bound to his than perhaps you know. The Pizarros of the world must not have the last word! I love my husband." (see note)
Operation Florestan is a singularly appropriate name for the worldwide effort to free LaRouche and his political associates from prison. The Pizarro referred to by Mrs. LaRouche, is the sinister tyrant in Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, who has imprisoned, and intends to murder, his political opponent, Florestan. Florestan is saved from otherwise certain death because his wife's love proves to be stronger than the arrogance of his political enemies. Beethoven's libretto refers to the actual case of the French hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, who had been imprisoned in Austria, and saved by the heroic actions of his wife. In the opera, Leonora Florestan dresses as a boy, takes the name Fidelio, and procures work as a helper in the prison where she suspects her husband is held captive. Indeed, in the cold dungeon below, lies Florestan, being slowly drained of life, on orders of Pizarro.
Although everyone, (even the British) admits that the subject of the opera is freedom, the plot of Leonora rescuing her imprisoned husband, is merely the most superficial level on which it can be appreciated. Beethoven's concern, as Lyndon LaRouche's today, is that of transforming the people around him, such that they are capable of mastering ever more profound conceptions respecting man and nature, so as to more effectively participate in the highest of all highest creative workthe art of self-governing a republic. In art, as in politics and physics, freedom cannot be defined as "individual artistic freedom," but rather only as true human freedom, or valid creative discovery.
LaRouche put it this way in his recent book In Defense of Common Sense: "This agape is evoked by moments of generating, transmitting, and efficiently assimilating valid, fundamental scientific discoveries. This evoked emotion is the power of sustained, protracted concentration we require for such mental activity. It is the emotion, such as 'tears of joy,' evoked by fixing upon that singular human quality we should love in all other persons. It is therefore the emotion of truth, and of classical beauty."
In Fidelio, Beethoven unfolds the process of achieving true freedom, through, among other things, the composer's rigorous development of the ideas of hope and love. He proves that neither form nor content are arbitrary, and that the quality of sacred love, (agape in Greek), which is required to defeat the Pizarros of the world, cannot be based on "sincere feelings," which prevail in the world of empiricism and appearances. Beethoven develops musically, what Schiller calls the Sublime, and polemicizes throughout the opera against the "sincere feelings" that are too often mistaken for true emotion. The power of Love, even wedded love, as Schiller explains in his Letters on Don Carlos, is not abstract, but springs from the noble vision of humanity, the better world of which we dream, and for which we fight.
The real subject, statecraft, and the creation of political leadershiprepresented by the transformation function T(A-B), or the generation, transmission, and assimilation of scientific progressis the process within the individual's mental life that sets human beings above and apart from the lower beasts. Beethoven's music, which functions the same as any valid scientific discovery in physical science, is uplifting, in that it uses the medium of beautiful music to express the creative powers of the human mind. As individuals perform this great music, or partake of it, they participate in the rediscovery of the creative process.
Beethoven's Operatic Masterpiece
The opera known to us today as Fidelio, was first performed in 1814, after going through major revisions. The original Fidelio was performed in November of 1805, to the backdrop of French troops marching into and occupying Vienna, after being postponed a month to convince the police censors that the script was not really politically inflammatory. A revised, shortened version was performed in March 1806, but withdrawn after a few performances, which pleased Beethoven's political enemies.
By 1814, both the political climate, and the recognition of Beethoven's creative genius, made Fidelio an exciting choice for the singers of the Vienna Court Opera, who had been granted an opportunity to perform an opera of their choice, for their own benefit. Beethoven unselfishly agreed to have his opera used for this purpose, on the condition that major changes be made, which he requested be done by his friend, Georg Friedrich Treitschke. Treitschke, an entomologist by profession, was also the Court Opera stage manager and poet.
According to Treitschke's report, after getting the approval from Joseph Ferdinand Sonnleithner, the original librettist, he "first took up the dialogue, wrote it almost wholly anew, succinct and clear as possiblean essential thing in the case of Singspiele." In March 1814, Beethoven wrote to Treitschke, "I have read your revisions to the opera with great pleasure. They determine me the more to rebuild the desolate ruins of an ancient fortress."
The libretto, which is the raw material upon which the artist builds his musical composition, in its original form, was modeled on typical operas of the day. But built into the new libretto, was the skillful employment of the poetic principle, in particular the use of ironies, which Beethoven enriched to new dimensions. For example, besides the obvious references to light and darkness, certain other expressions in the dialogue take on completely different meanings, depending on which character is speaking of them. The conceptions of hoping, hoffen, die Hoffnung; love, die Liebe; courage, der Mut; freedom, die Freiheit; to be rescued, gerettet werden, or rescue, die Rettung,are just a few examples in which Beethoven makes use of irony. This is not a Wagnerian exercize in symbolism, but rather the ability to convey, through the language of poetry and music, the truth about the state of mind, or level of consciousness, which is being addressed.
Beethoven was enthusiastic about the revision, but there were many interruptions to his concentrated work on Fidelio.In an April 1814 letter, again to his friend Treitschke, Beethoven gives us some insight into his thinking processes. He describes that he found it more difficult to transform his original opera than to create an entirely new work: "I am accustomed in my composing, even in my instrumental music, to keep the whole in view. But here my whole hasin a certain waybeen distributed everywhere and I have got to get myself back into my work ever and anon It is not likely that it will be possible to give the opera in two weeks time. I think that it will be in 4 weeks. Meanwhile the first act will be finished in a few daysBut there still remains much to do in the second act, and also a new overture, which will be the easiest because I can compose it entirely new...."
In July 1814, the opera we know today as Fidelio was actually completed. Beethoven advertised his own special benefit performance with the announcement: "For this performance ... two new pieces have been added." They were the aria for Rocco, "Das Gold" (originally written for the 1805 version), and the grand aria for Leonora, a totally new, and beautiful version of "Komm, Hoffnung."
From the overture to the finale, Fidelio is a sublime example of the ironical polemical method of organizing. Throughout this masterpiece, the composer addresses that quality of love required to defeat the Pizarros of the world, and within that context, the different levels of hope associated with that quality of love. He is directly challenging the audience to recognize the difference between the hope of successfully achieving something for personal gratification, versus the more profound hope associated with the triumph of justice and the defeat of evil.
Some of the characters portrayed in the opera are quite well known to us already, today. We already know Pizarro, the tyrant. In Beethoven's day he represented William Pitt, the man responsible for jailing Lafayette.
But let's look at Rocco, for example, the jailer. Rocco is a "regular" kind of fellow, a "practical" guy, a father who wants his daughter to be happy. He is fooled by Leonora's appearance, dressed as the young boy Fidelio, such that he agreed to let his young, innocent daughter, Marcellina, marry him. Yet, it is this "nice guy," who is personally responsible for Florestan's fate, even though Rocco does not consider himself "political."
When Leonora, as Fidelio, asks about the state prisoners, and hears of the deprivation of the one below, she remarks that he must be a very great criminal. Rocco responds, "or he must have great enemies; that means about the same thing!" So speaks this "good guy." Surrounded by political prisoners and their families whom he'd rather not notice, he just wants to do his job as best he can. And when Florestan tries to tell Rocco about himself, Rocco chooses to not hear him, and in this way Rocco believes he is "not involved!"
At a critical moment, Rocco does indeed refuse to commit the sin of murder, even when bribed to do so by Pizarro. But, Beethoven reminds us, this same Rocco, although uncomfortable about it, has followed the barbaric orders of Pizarro, by slowly starving Florestan to death.
When Rocco refuses to kill Florestan for him, Pizarro decides that he will kill his political prisoner himself. Here again, Beethoven's polemic is ruthless. When Rocco responds to a horrified Leonora, who asks him if assassinating the prisoner is part of his job: "No, good youth, do not tremble; Rocco does not stoop to murder, no, no! No, no, no! The governer himself is coming [to do it]. We two only dig the grave...." Even more damning is Rocco's feeble rationalization to Leonora, and to himself, that allowing Pizarro to kill Florestan will be a kind of "freedom" for the prisoner, after having been through so much torture.
If the implication of the sin of omission, through the toleration of evil, is not clear enough to the audience by this point, Beethoven draws out the consequence of not defeating evil. The tyrant Pizarro decides that he must kill Rocco, along with the political prisoner, to eliminate a witness to his bloody deed.
Yet, Beethoven also shows that Rocco can be brought to a higher level. Under the influence of Leonora, Rocco is made to do Good, for example, when he permits some of the prisoners to go outside for fresh air. Although he is not exactly transformed by this, Rocco is persuaded to do the right thing, even though he knows Pizarro will disapprove. Much more profound, is his transformation after Leonora's confrontation with Pizarro in the dungeon. Rocco gains courage from the passionate heroism of Leonora, and, not knowing the consequences, at the very last minute, he finally decides to defy the tyrant.
Rocco's sixteen-year-old daughter, Marcellina, lives in the prison along with her father. The opening duet is in the prison courtyard, as Marcellina is doing her chores. She is trying to be gracious to her suitor, Jacquino, whom she is jilting, since she has "fallen in love" with Fidelio (Leonora in disguise) and has chosen him (her) for her husband. Jacquino, an uneducated peasant, sees only what appears to him on the surface, and is confused throughout the opera by the events around him.
The Marcellina-Jacquino duet is continually interrupted by a knocking on the door. It is apparent that wives and family members of the prisoners are trying to communicate with those inside. The stage directions say: "Jacquino opens the door, takes a packet and leaves it in his room, while Marcellina continues." This myopic couple views the outside world as a nuisance, an interruption of the continuum of their banality.
After Jacquino leaves, Marcellina, now alone, sings a beautiful aria, in which she expresses hope about her future. As a young maiden, she imagines the happy vision of her future wedded life with Fidelio:
|Oh, if only I were wed to you
And might call you my husband!
A maiden can only guess
Half of what that would mean.
When I no longer have to blush
At a warm kiss from the heart,
When nothing on earth can disturb us--
Hope already fills my breast
Hope already fills the breast
|O waer ich schon mit dir vereint
Und duerfte Mann dich nennen!
Ein Maedchen darf ja, was es meint
zur Haelfte nur bekennen!
Doch wenn ich nicht erroethen muss
Ob einem warmen Herzenkuss,
Wenn nichts uns stoert auf Erden--
Die Hoffnung schon erfuellt die Brust
In Ruhe stiller Haeuslichkeit,
Die Hoffnung schon erfuellt dieBrust
In this lovely aria, Beethoven has presented us with one level of what it means to hope. These are the aspirations of a "normal" young maiden, who wishes to do what's right, and respectful, to marry, have a cosy home and a happy future. Her infatuation with Fidelio, who is not even a young boy, but only appears to be so, makes the shallowness of Marcellina's so-called "love" so obvious, that it is humorous.
The aria begins in C minor:
which is a variation on the opening duet between Marcellina and Jacquino:
and changes to C major at the point where she sings of hope filling her breast with unspeakably sweet pleasure.
She returns to the minor key to sing the second verse, and then repeats the change at the repeated section about hope. There is more instrumental activity in the second than in the first half, but the music of the vocal line remains the same, until the ending.
The reader must bear in mind that Beethoven composed his music with strict adherence to the scientific tuning of C=256 hz, which defines precise breaks in registers, according to physical laws, in each voice of the human species. If a higher-pitched tuning is used in performance of Fidelio, then the following crucial distinictions will be distorted, and the intent of the composer will be lost.
Marcellina sings mostly in the soprano second register (see box), never reaching below the G8, where the "color" of the voice would be darker. There is a definite poetic significance to her entrance into the higher, third register, which she enters briefly on a grace note (on the word "husband") and then with 16th notes (describing her "unspeakably" sweet pleasure) and then, in a definitive way, on the dotted eighth note on the adjective gluecklich (happy). She leads up to and then describes her ideal state of bliss. Then, this same high G, which is the fifth of the tonic C, is emphasized in her coda at the end, on the adjective and noun susser lust (sweet pleasure), where the note is held for three full measures. In case you missed the issue herethat her feelings of happiness and sweet pleasure are what is fundamentalshe repeats
gluecklich and reaches the A (one full step above G in the third register).
Verbal action signifies transformation, and a register change on a particular verb must be noted as a significant transformation in a vocal piece. In this case, the shift occurs, briefly, in the next to the last line of the piece, from the second to third register high G on werden,(to become). By itself, werden is a verb very rich in potential. However, in the last line, emphasized with ja before it's repeated, one sees that which is undeniablethat the essence of the hoping spirit betrayed by lovely young Marcellina, lies in her romantic idea of happiness.
Therefore, the significance of this shift of register is not found in the frame of reference of Marcellina, the character. Rather, it is located in the capacity of the audience to comprehend its own transformation, by recognizing this potential, unrealized in the character who is singing.
Marcellina's is the basest level of hope. Her conception of wedded bliss is located in the idea that the couple, through their love, will escape from the cares of the world. Though daily toil, with all its troubles, must be recognized as an inescapable reality, (the minor key,) "love" will provide the necessary escape. Implied, is that the future for Marcellina and her spouse is located inside the prison.
In his essay "On the Sublime," Schiller writes: "It is indeed something entirely different, if we feel a longing for beautiful and good objects, or if we merely desire that the existing objects be beautiful and good. The last can exist with the highest freedom of the soul, but the first, not; that the existing be beautiful and good, we can demand; that the beautiful and good be existing, merely wish."
Beethoven takes this a step further, looking at Marcellina's "wish." In the midst of the state prison, filled with political prisoners, is this sweet young thing, who is completely oblivious to the horrorifying reality in which she exists! She could as well be a modern-day maiden, or housewife, or any average fellow, whose hope for betterment is defined, at best, by a romantic fantasy.
We see a similar kind of thinking reflected by many otherwise good people, who say "I really
hopeyou can free Mr. LaRouche," and "I hope you find people with the courage, funds, and time, to help, because I cannot!" That is not hope at all, but inaction stemming from cowardice and lack of vision, as Beethoven demonstrates in his portrait of the oblivious Marcellina.
The Canon Quartet
Beethoven's polemic against appearances is developed in the next scene, in the canon quartet sung by Leonora, Marcellina, Rocco, and Jacquino. The audience knows that the boy Fidelio is actually Leonora Florestan in disguise, and is also aware that the opera characters have not yet figured that out, so Beethoven has already enabled his audience to rise above the banality of appearances. This is elaborated musically in the canon quartet:
Marcellina begins, singing:
It's so wonderful to me,
My heart will surely burst;
He loves me, it is clear,
I will be so happy!
Leonora, then enters, singing the same musical thematic line,
How great is the danger,
How dimly shines my hope;
She loves me, that is clear--
Oh nameless pain!
Both women are singing the same musical line, each to herself, but they are expressing completely different emotions. Then Rocco follows, singing again the same melody line:
She loves him, that is clear;
Yes, my girl, he is yours;
A fine young couple,
They will be so happy.
And, lastly, Jacquino enters:
My hair stands on end,
To see her father consent;
It seems so wonderous,
But there's no solution.
This quartet is the third number in the opera, but it transforms the opera, to a higher level, not because the characters are transformed yet, (because they are not), but because the audience sees that reality has been introduced, redefining everything, in the midst of an otherwise insane situation dominated by appearances.
Given that Marcellina is still a child, one can say that her trivial notions might be attributed to her youth. Beethoven develops a very different world view, and related notion of hope, through Leonora, who proves that hope is the intangible substance which guides humanity in general and in specific, from one geometry into a higher-ordered one.
Die Hoffnung (hope) becomes a verbal idea, which represents the transformation function. Beethoven misses no opportunity to repeat this idea throughout the entire opera, from every conceivable level of consciousness; he has woven "hope" into every aria and ensemble in Act I. He moves to a higher plane when he introduces Florestan, in Act II, who, in the deep recesses of the dungeon, sings of hope, and of the angel, his wife Leonora.
Beethoven's general idea can be grasped for now, however, by working through Leonora's famous recitative and aria, "Abscheulicher!.... Komm, Hoffnung." Through this brief study we can attain a certain insight into truth, and the classical method.
This was the piece that Beethoven revised for his own, special July 1814 benefit performance. He changed the key to E, from the original version in F, (thus raising the highest note sung to a B instead of B-flat); he cut the length of the aria, and changed it significanty, keeping only the stanza beginning with "Ich folg' dem innern Triebe." He lengthened the recitative and enriched it. Although one may say that both soprani address the subject of wedded love in song, it is the distinction of one from one another, poetically and musically, that establishes Beethoven's polemic:
After Rocco and Pizarro leave the garden, Leonora enters, agitated, prey to violent emotion:
|Abominal one! Where do you rush to?
What purpose is there in your wild rage?
The cry of pity, the voice of humanity---
Have they no more affect on your
There storms also as the sea's waves
Within your soul an anger and fury.
Yet shines for me a rainbow,
Which bright on the darkening clouds rests.
It looks so quietly, so peacefullybelow
It mirrors olden times again,
And newly calmed flows my blood.
Come, Hope, let the last star
Of the weary not fade.
Illuminate my goal, be it ever so distant,
Love, it will be attained.
I will follow my inner desire
And waver not;
I am strengthened by the duty
Of true married love.
Oh, you, for whom I have borneall,
Could I to your place break through,
Where evil cast you into chains,
And sweet solace bring you!
(I will follow my inner desire
And waver not;
I am strengthened by the duty
Of true married love.)
Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?
Was hast du vor in wildem Grimme?
Des Mitleids Ruf, den Menscheit Stimme--
Ruehrt nichts mehr deinen
Doch toben auch wie Meereswogen
Dir in der Seele Zorn und Wut.
So leuchtet mir ein Farbenbogen,
Der hell auf dunkeln Wolken ruht.
(Der blickt so still, so friedlich nieder
Der spiegelt alte Zeiten wieder,
Und neu besaenftigt wallt mein Blut.
Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern
Der Mueden nicht erbleichen.
Erhell' mein Ziel, sei's noch so fern,
Die Liebe, sie wird's erreichen.
Ich folg dem innern Triebe,
Ich wanke nicht,
Mich staerkt die Pflicht
Der treuen Gattenliebe.
O du, fur den ich alles trug,
Koennt ich zur Stelle dringen,
Wo Bosheit dich in Fesseln schlug,
Und suessen Trost dirbringen!)
(Ich folg dem innern Triebe,
Ich wanke nicht,
Mich staerkt die Pflicht
Der treuen Gattenliebe).
Many pages could be written analyzing this recitative and aria alone, but we will limit ourselves here to the most striking features, especially as they can be compared to the earlier soprano song. First, notice where Beethoven places this aria in the order of the opera: It is already a singularityit comes after Pizarro's song of revenge, with the soldiers' chorus singing of impending danger and death, and Pizarro's duet with Rocco, where the murder plan is outlined. It comes right before the chorus of prisoners, who sing of the sweet delight of deliverance and freedom, and hope and trust in a just Heaven.
Leonora's hope connects the two men's choruses, and is the point of connection between the two opposing processes here, the descent to the depths of darkness to accomplish a black deed, versus the elevating, thus freeing, of those imprisoned in the darkness, whose hope and trust is emboldened by the light. Leonora's willingness to challenge Pizarro, leads to the introduction of the prisoners. It is only after the prisoners' chorus, which ends the first act, that the audience is prepared to meet Florestan. And, although the audience has learned of Pizarro's intention, Leonora sings without foreknowledge of the evil plot.
As mentioned earlier, the aria is in the key of E, and its range spans two full octaves, from the B below middle C (B7) to the B two octaves above middle C (B9), therefore employing to the fullest the different colors of all three soprano registers.
The key of E major is already advantageous for differentiation in color, because for a soprano voice, the key of E divides the octave such that only the first note of the scale is in the lower register, and the next note, and all thereafter up to the octave are (F-sharpE) in the second, or middle register. So, just to get anywhereto the fifth, or the major or minor third, the fourth, the sixth, or the octave, from the tonic E, the singer must enter a different register. Also, from the E above middle C, and ascending into the third register, the same relationship holds true, since the shift from second to third register mirrors the shift from the first to second register.
However, the more general point is seen in the Socratic dialogue embedded in the aria. In classical composition, voice registration reflects the dialogue "within the dialogue," such that an individual singer can convey, through different vocal "colors," contrasting, or developing ideas, or "voices." Different states of mind, or levels of consciousness are often depicted as different "voices," or registers, of one singer. Thus, the degrees of freedom increase, because the composer can add to his arsenal of dynamics (louder or softer, tempo and rhythm, key changes, ensembles, added instrumentation and more), the very human process of Socratic dialogue, to create and develop a musical idea. (See music chart)
In the recitative, "Abscheulicher!" which begins in G minor, but shifts key and tempo after every line, Leonora begins by addressing the bestiality of Pizarro, in an agitated way. Each line ends with a descent from the second into the first register, on critically descriptive words:
We find a singularitythe word Wuth (fury) is on the high, third-register F-sharp, as opposed to what one would expectwhich would be another low note, perhaps a low D. Is this unlawful, as it might appear to the formalist, or is there, obviously, a higher principle of organizing involved here? There is a process of transformation. This F-sharp is not, in itself, the fundamental discovery, but it is the connection between the first six lines and the last six lines of the recitative; it is through this singularity that we have entered the phase of transformation.
Consider the following from Schiller's "On the Sublime": "The feeling of the sublime is a mixed feeling. It is a combination of woefulness, which expresses itself in its highest degree as a shudder, and of joyfulness, which can rise up to enrapture, and although it is not properly pleasure, is yet widely preferred to every pleasure by fine souls. This union of two contradictory sentiments in a single feeling proves our moral independence in an irrefutable manner. For as it is absolutely impossible that the same object stand in two opposite relations to us, so does it follow therefore, that we ourselves stand in two different relations to the object, so that consequently two opposite natures must be united in us, which are interested in the conception of the same in completely opposite ways. We therefore experience through the feeling of the sublime, that the state of our mind does not necessarily conform to the state of our senses, that the laws of nature are not necessarily also those of ours, and that that we have in us an independent principle, which is independent of all sensuous emotions..."
Attaining that higher state of mind is the process that Beethoven is teaching us through Leonora's aria, and we have reached a turning point. She is no longer addressing the bestiality which characterizes the tyrant, but, through identifying the passion of his fury, she has discovered a stronger passion within herself.
On this high F-sharp, the wind instruments, the flute, oboe, clarinet in A, and bassoon have joined the strings, which have been accompanying Leonora for the first six lines of the recitative. (The bassoon entered earlier, but only for a brief measure and a quarter, at "Des Mitleids Ruf," as if to represent, in the preconsious, this voice of compassion.) But after the third-register F-sharp, the relative dissonance is replaced with a melodic line in the home key of C major. Also after the high F-sharp, the strings rest, and Leonora ascends from C9-natural to the G above that F-sharp, and descends peacefully, with the sustained notes of the winds above, to the E9, singing:
The light has already begun to prevail over the dark rage of Pizarro. This is indicated by the high G, which seems to soar way above the F-sharp, even though it is only a half-step up. But the further indication that we are moving into a truly new geometry comes in the next phrasethe winds introduce Leonora, who sings the following, all on G8, with the strings which have re-entered, holding sustained notes on the G triad:
such that there is increasing creative tension, effected by the repeated Gs, and then F-sharps. Leonora's mind is contemplating her love for her husband, which is expressed as the concrete universal of her concept of Love itself. It not only radiates from the heavens, piercing through the darkening clouds to guide her pathway, but it reflects the deepest joy of former times, which lead her
to a breakthrough:
She ends the recitative on the F-sharp, now ennobled such that she finds new courage to face the future, from the reflection on the times past, which determine her immediate actions in the present. This last F-sharp is indeed a mirror of the earlier, higher F-sharp she sang on Wuth (fury); that is, this F-sharp represents another singularity through which to move to yet a new, higher-order geometry.
Verbal Action and Development
Thus, in the recitative alone, we see two major transformations to higher levels of emotional development. Leonora has taken a great risk in deciding to play the part of the boy, interested in marrying the jailer's daughter, so as to win his trust, in order to enter the dungeon with him to free the prisoner who she believes is her husband. Yet, if she is to succeed in her mission, being a beautiful soul is not sufficient; she must act from the standpoint of the Sublime, in that she must develop the capacity to go beyond being in harmony with Reason. She must forego reliance on her senses, which tell her that she is in danger, and become Reason itself.
At the transition to the aria itself, the soprano-like instruments, the oboe, the flute, and then the clarinet, drop out of the piece, and are replaced by the three horns, which we hear again prominently in Florestan's aria, and then again at the arrival of the minister, on Pizarro's orders. At this moment, the brass instruments provoke the mental image of the concept of entschlossenheit (the German word translated as, but meaning more than "resolution," or "determination to succeed.") It is as if they are heralding the transformed Leonora, who has only now reached the proper state of mind to be able to sing the aria.
One of the most important features of Komm, Hoffnung is the verbal action. What strikes even the most musically illiterate listener, is that the piece is constantly changingtempo, instrumentation, keys, dynamics, usually when change is unexpected. This song, from the beginning, is now almost like a prayer, sung from an elevated emotional standpoint, very beautifully and almost peacefully, asking that hope guide her path to her goal, no matter how far.
When Leonora reaches the third register, on the F-sharp on Liebe, (love) this is a singularity, which paves the way for a breakthrough, which begins in the following measure. The significance of this register change, on Liebe,is that it is through the emotion of sacred love, introduced by the brief F-sharp, that she will travel to yet even greater heights of self-development, to attain her goal.
After the first words, sie wird's erreichen, in which she descends a fourth, and then she repeats, starting with Ja, this time on the lower F-sharp,
ascending to the octave above by travelling through the following successsion of notesF8-sharp, G-sharp, B, D-sharp, and then F9-sharp. (This is all on the verb.) Then, with no break, she drops to the G8-sharp, and travels the path again, this time more vigorously, singing every possible note that lies between the F8-sharp and the E8, (G-sharp, F-double-sharp, G-sharp, A, A-sharp, B, B-sharp, C-sharp, D, D-sharp, E, D-sharp, E). Then she comes down again to the lower F-sharp to complete the verb erreichen (to attain).
But this is not all. Now, the musical space needed is greater, because as Leonora repeats her hope of attaining her goal, again on the verb, she begins on the F8-sharp, but then she ascends up beyond the high F-sharp, and G-sharp and A-sharp up to the B9, the upper limit of the soprano third register. She then descends, in half the time, through three octaves, stopping on the F-sharp (Beethoven has a fermata there), and then reaching down to the E, C-sharp, and the B7. This work is all on the verb erreichen.
In this nonlinear process of development, it is clear that Leonora's love extends from the highest heights to the deepest, farthest reaches of space and time. The profound beauty of the work accomplished, over the space of three octaves, creates the freedom to progress, which she does. There is a very direct correspondence between the psychological process of moving to higher levels of self-consciousness, and the ascension up the scale described above. This is because the physical process of shifting to higher registers reflects the mental process necessary to change the manner in which the sound is created, in order to successfully sing the physical pitch of the notes as they move up the scale. The process looks like hyperbolic horns, growing out of one another
such that, rather than the sound getting smaller as the pitch increases, it actually grows.
Next, the opening line is repeated in a slightly varied way, covering again the space from F8-sharp to F9-sharp. There is a change in the libretto, from Erhell' mein Ziel,to Erhell' ihr Ziel. On this phrase, "Illuminate her [or their] goal," all the instruments crescendo, and the key changes to a minor. This singularity anticipates a later development, but no matter how distant it appears to be, Love will attain and be attained.
The repeat of the poetic line, as the power of emotion deepens within Leonora and radiates out, requires yet another expansion of the musical space. The entire phrase, Die Liebe, die Liebe wird's erreichen mirrors the earlier process of verbal transformation, but now it is developed horizontally, or lengthwise, so to speak, through the musical space defined by the E9 through E8. So, as Leonora begins on the tonic, at the E9, reference is made to her earlier breakthrough by the horns and bassoon. She sings the die Liebe,and holds it on E for more than a full measure, and then, from a least action standpoint, she concludes the line such that it summarizes the earlier process, ending on the E8, one octave down.
Then, a dramatic shift is announced by the horns and bassoon to the next stanza, or the next level of inner conflict. Die Liebe,or Agape, is the universal creative principle from which our strength derives, and it is the capacity for love which sets man above, and apart from the lower beasts. Through this quality of Agape man acts in the image of his Creator. Therefore, with trust in God, (and our right arm,) there is nothing that Love cannot conquer. But, this love of God, love of humanity, love of truth, and love of classical beauty is not abstract. This potent physical force is reflected as a universal principle, but it is realized also as a concrete universal. This is how Leonora is emboldened. Still singing on the first register E, Leonora ascends to the G-sharp in the second register:
and in the second register, from the G-sharp to B:
This courage is reflected in the next line, as it condenses, but also expands the registral and golden section pattern:
The jump from the high to the lowest register, followed by the ascending scale expresses the transformation of the idea of Die Liebe erreichen.The concept of Gattenliebe (married love) is not simply a transformation, or particular form of Liebe, but it is a development of the action of Die Liebe erreichen.
For a brief measure, this idea is condensed, as she reaches G9-sharp and drops to B-sharp, but is then elaborated by ascending the C-sharp scale, moving to F-sharp, then E and D-sharp. Although poor Immanuel Kant would never understand this, Leonora is strengthened by the duty of married love. The verb staerkt (to strengthen) on the G-sharp is reflected in the higher register on the verbal idea, Gattenliebe.This may appear to be a noun, but it is undeniably a a verbal concept.
Reaching the Sublime
The power of the concept of Gattenliebe itself has allowed Beethoven to cover the range of an octave and a fifth, in the span of only two notes, since it has already been proven that the power of Love can reach these heights and depths. However, this is not an easy battle; There are conflicting, unspoken fears which must be overcome. Leonora is in the process of developing the beautiful soul's capacity to overcome, which is heard in the joyous repeat of the line
which is immediately followed by the very tender third stanza, in which Leonora addresses her beloved, from whom she is physically separated:
We are elevated with Leonora and her bittersweet thoughts of somehow bridging the gulf that lies between her and her husband. She wishes to break through ( dringen) to where evil ( Bosheit,F-sharpE) has bitterly subjugated her beloved, in order to bring sweet relief! Then, just as in the recitative, we are transported with Leonora to that hopeful, better world, through the music. At the moment that she sings,
she is crossing the gulf which Schiller descibes in his "On the Sublime": "There are two genii, which nature gave us as companions throughout life. The one, sociable and lovely, shortens the laborious journey for us through its lively play, makes the fetters of necessity light for us, and leads us amidst joy and jest up to the dangerous places, where we must act as pure spirits and lay aside everything bodily, as to cognition of truth and performance of duty. Here it abandons us, for only the world of sense is its province, beyond this its earthly wings cannot carry it. But now the other one steps up, earnest and silent, and with stout arm it carries us over the dizzying depth.
"In the first of these genii one recognizes the feeling of the beautiful, in the second the feeling of the sublime. Indeed the beautiful is already an expression of freedom, but not that which elevates us above the power of nature and releases us from every bodily influence, but rather that which we enjoy within nature as men. We feel ourselves free with beauty, because the sensuous instincts harmonize with the law of reason; we feel ourselves free with the sublime, because the sensuous instincts have no influence upon the legislation of reason, because the mind acts here, as if it stood under no other than its own laws."
This is affirmed as she repeats the stanza, (O du, fur den ich alles trug), with the horns assisting in increasing the creative tension. This is sung with overwhelming passion and boldness, and now, virtually without fear:
and it is evident, that Leonora will turn her hope into reality, by strengthening herself through this process. The bold descending notes ( wo Bosheit ...) paint a mental picture of the deep, dark descent into the dungeon, but, in fact, as is evident in the final phrase of that section,
the power of Love breaks through, attains and is attained.
An Die Ferne Geliebte
We can better understand this du to whom Leonora is addressing her thoughts, if we look ahead a few years to 1816 and see how Beethoven developed a similar dialogue, in his song cycle, the An die ferne Geliebte, (``To the Distant Beloved'') completed two years after Fidelio, in April, 1816.
Here, in the space of six songs, Beethoven provides the solution, using his advanced understanding of the notion of physical space-time, to the problem of bridging the unbridgable divide. That is, he creates through music, a scientific treatise on political organizing, and what is required to reach, touch, and transformthe minds and hearts of the individual human beings, such that they can have access to the powers of their own creativity, which is true human
Beethoven's singer is attempting to reach his beloved, who is sitting on the other side of that divide The first song laments that if nothing else can reach the beloved, then ``I will sing, sing songs of suffering, to tell you of my sorrow.'' Then it ends with the words:
|For the sound of song makes flee
All space and all time,
And a loving heart attains
What a loving heart has consecrated!
|Denn vor Liedesklang entweichet<pa
Jeder Raum und jeder Zeit,<pa
Und ein liebend Herz erreichet,<pa
Was ein liebend Herz geweiht!)
Beethoven employs the sustained G in the vocal line, very pianissimo, to more effectively transport the listener to this better world. Here, in the new key of C, the piano line is now playing what had been the singer's line, while the singer, now in the key of C, repeats on G:
|In the quiet valley there
Hushed are pain and suffering
Where, among the stones
The primrose quietly meditates
Wafts so gently the wind...
I wish I were there!
|Dort im Ruhigen Thal
Schweigen Schmerzen und Qual
Wo im Gestein
Still die Primel dort sinnt
Weht so leise der Wind....
Moechte ich Sein!
Then, the key returns to G, and the tempo and dynamics change dramatically. The mind has been prepared for a breakthrough, because the sustained Gs create a certain tension. In the third stanza, theconflict, evident in the phrase innere Pein, is verbalized: There must be a way to close the gap between the place to which the loving mind has been transported, and the place (and time) in which he is exisiting in the here and now. That is, the hope and dream must be transformed into reality (and not the other way around, where dreams are crushed by pragmatic considerations). After three more songs, Beethoven closes the cycle, in the sixth song,
|Take them, then, these songs
Which I, to you, beloved, sang,
Sing them over then every evening
To the lute's sweet sound!
When the evening's glow then draws
Out toward the still blue sea,
And its last rays die out
Beyond that mountaintop,
And you sing what I have sung--
What, out of the depths of my breast
Without pretension, has resounded,
Conscious only of its own longing:
Then to these songs shall yield<pa
What has kept us so far apart,<pa
And a loving heart will attain,<pa
What a loving heart has consecrated
|Nimm sie hin, denn diese Lieder,
Die ich dir, Geliebte, sang,
Singe, sie dann Abends wieder
Zu der Laute sussem Klang!
Wenn das Damm'rungsroth dann ziehet
Aus dem stille blaue see
Und sein letzter Strahl vergluhet
Hinter jener Bergeshoh,
Und, du singst, was ich Gesungen
Was mir aus der vollen Brust<pa
Ohne Kunst geprang erklungen,<pa
Nur der Sensucht sich bewusst.<pa
Dann vor diesen Liedern weichet,
Was gescheiden uns so weit,
Und ein liebend Herz erreichet
Was ein liebend Herz geweiht!)
The verb Erreichet is the same as erreichen, which is emphasized by Leonora in Komm, Hoffnung. (The same root verb is used by Mozart in his opera The Magic Flute to express the idea of wedded love reichet doch die Gottheit an, at the end of the ``man and wife'' duet of Pamina and Papageno.)
One similarity between theKomm, Hoffnung aria and the song cycle which can help us see the resolution of Leonora's situation, is the und du singst [(what I have sung), referring to the Singen will ich, Lieder singen, die dir klagen meine Pein] of the very first song.) This is the key moment of transformation, in which the true principle of love is expressed. The principle of Love is expressed through the Creator, the Created, and through the act of creation, which is Love. Beethoven imitates this process of God's Creation. Beethoven creates that which is the expression of Love itself, such that his beloved du, can assimilate, and then transmit this scientific progress, thus ``closing'' the gap.
Another similarity is the resolution of the entire process. The final couplet in the song cycle,Und ein liebend Herz erreichet, was ein liebend Herz geweiht! restates the process of travelling through the first to last song, up to that moment, with all the registral and other implications embedded in the ending, which is sung forte, and ends on the third-register G, the reflection of the second-register, softly sung G in the second song. The bridge between wishing to be there, and being there, has been crossed.
This is the process taking place, through Leonora, as she approaches the Sublime, described so powerfully by Schiller in the quotes above. The B-sharp-B relationship of schlug and und,which changes the key, and adds to the bittersweet sense of the transformation, is found in the chromatic ascending scale in the first transformed erreichen. The significance of B, the fifth of the tonic E, is that it represents the
outer limits of the third register of the soprano voice. The B-sharp that dramatically developed the action of erreichen, on the verbal noun Gattenliebe, was generated from the B-sharp we briefly noted earlier as a singularity, at the moment in which Erhell' mein Ziel is transformed to Erhell' ihr Ziel, and which B-sharp is immediately referenced on Liebe three measures later.
Ihr translates as either ``her'' or ``their.'' So, if Leonora is the speaker, then she singsErhell' ihr Ziel, such that Hope lights the goal for all the weary, thus ``their'' goal. But it is also sung from the standpoint of that genie which leaves this world to carry the soul beyond the limits of the sensuous; that is, she sings it as the soul of Leonora, asking Hope to illuminate the goal for the physical Leonora. Either way, this is really Beethoven's voice, illuminating the point that the object of Leonora is the same as for all humanity, which is, true human freedom.
This is borne out in the conclusion of the aria, which to the formalist might appear to be a repeat of the second stanza. It is not a ``repeat,'' however, because Leonora is now on the other side of the divide. Indeed, she is no longer separated from her beloved, except, and only, physically. Here again there is a G-sharp to B-sharp relationship of the first Gattenliebe, to a G-sharp to B relationship of the final Gattenliebe. It is as if the process of gaining courage is relived by Leonora as she sings, sublimely, of the strength generated from wedded love:
And continues with dramatic G-sharp third-to-second-register octave jumps, on Nein, ich wanke nicht, and then a chromatic movement, on mich staerkt die Pflicht der treuen, leading to the final, very dense Gattenliebe beginning on G9-sharp in the third register:
and immediately jumping down to the first register E, then ascending, quite victoriously, first to E, and then through the B scale, up to the high B, which is a held note, and then ending back on the tonic, E. Gattenliebe, the verbal noun which has all three Socratic voices embedded in the one human voice, is the idea which closes the aria.
Leonora's prayer for hope is answered, in that she has become a new person, a free, sublime, beautiful soul. It is her transformation which mirrors the process through which dreams can always be transformed into reality--the process which Lyndon LaRouche calls the power of reason. In Fidelio, Beethoven has created a manual for freedom fighters., who understand that the pathway to freedom is throught beauty.
We have looked at only a small piece of the opera, and touched upon only a fraction of what could be discussed. Yet, with only this inadequate discussion, it is clear that Beethoven has identified both the problem, and the solution, on many different levels. He has proven that the solution to the gravest and most difficult problem is itself embedded in the problem.
``Die Liebe, sie wird's erreichen.''
Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. was released (on parole) from prison after 5 serving years of his unjust sentence, in January 1994. For documentation on the shocking frame up of Mr. LaRouche and his associates, who were railroaded to prison simply for political reasons, click here. The Schiller Institute-led international mobilization to free Mr. LaRouche involved more than 1,000 state legislators, officials and civic and religious leaders.