The Act I Prisoners’ Chorus ‘O welche lust’ is probably the most famous musical moment in Fidelio – a musical release of hope and delight in the bleakest and darkest of contexts.
Fidelio and his fellow prisoners have received rare permission to walk in the garden. They find joy in nature and trust in God to free them from imprisonment.
The chorus opens tentatively in the strings as light creeps musically into the darkness and we swap shadowy Bb for bright G major. One man starts the chorus then they all gradually join in. The chorus is repeated sotto voce (under their breath) when they realise that they are overheard, but this pianissimo repeat only adds to the passionate intensity of the music.