The story

Discover the story of Beethoven's Fidelio.

Act I

A plot and a disguise

In eighteenth-century Spain, Leonore’s husband Florestan has been arrested and imprisoned by his villainous noble rival Don Pizzaro, for attempting to expose the latter’s crimes. Determined to rescue him, Leonore disguises herself as a boy, Fidelio, and takes a job at the prison where he is being held.

Love complicates everything

Both the prison governor Rocco and his daughter Marzelline take a liking to ‘Fidelio’ causing problems for Leonore and for Jaquino, who loves Marzelline and is jealous of this new rival.

Hopes raised, then dashed

‘Fidelio’ works hard to gain Rocco’s trust, hoping that he will allow her to accompany him to the underground cell where her husband is imprisoned. She persuades Rocco to let the other prisoners out into the garden for a rare glimpse of sunlight. But when Pizarro discovers this he is furious, and orders them all immediately back to their cells.

Act II

A murderous endgame

On Pizzaro’s orders, Rocco has been slowly starving Florestan to death. But when Pizzaro hears that Don Fernando, a king’s minister, will visit shortly to investigate claims of Pizzaro’s cruelty, he vows to murder his captive.


But just as Pizzaro is about to kill Florestan, ‘Fidelio’ throws himself between them. The stand-off is ended when a trumpet-call announces Don Fernando’s arrival: Florestan is saved, Pizarro led away to prison, and all sing the praises of brave Leonore.

Synopsis by Alexandra Coghlan

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