Leonore Rebecca von Lipinski
Florestan Peter Wedd
Don Pizarro Darren Jeffery
Rocco Stephen Richardson
Marzelline Jennifer France
Jaquino Sam Furness
Don Fernando Joshua Bloom
Conductor Douglas Boyd
Director John Cox
Designer Gary McCann
Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Jaquino, a prison warder, is in love with Marzelline, the daughter of Rocco, the chief gaoler, and hopes to marry her. Marzelline has lost all interest in him and has fallen in love with Fidelio, a new warder recently hired by her father. She longs for him to return her love, marry her and bring her a happier life.
Fidelio is actually a woman, Leonore, who has disguised herself as a man in order to gain admission to the prison, where she believes her husband, Florestan, to be wrongfully incarcerated, on political grounds. She has managed to win Rocco's trust and hopes to find her husband and somehow secure his freedom.
Having Marzelline fall in love with her is not something that Leonore had bargained for but, as Fidelio, she does not dare discourage her altogether. Rocco gives the young couple his blessing, advising them that money, not love alone, is the key to a happy marriage. Fidelio offers to lighten Rocco's workload by sharing the closer supervision of the inmates. Rocco accepts but draws the line at one unofficial prisoner, who has been held in solitary confinement for over two years.
Don Pizarro, the prison governer, recevies a letter warning him of a surprise inspection: he is suspected of holding illicit prisoners. He attempts to bribe Rocco to kill the prisoner in solitary confinement. Rocco reguses but agrees to prepare the victim's grave - Pizarro himself will carry out the murder. The two men are unaware that they have been overheard by Fidelio who, alone, and thus able to express her true feelings as Leonore, curses Pizarro and invokes hope as her guiding star.
It is the King's name day and Fidelio successfully pleads for the prisoners to be allowed to take exercise in the prison garden. Rocco has secured Pizarro's agreement to have Fidelio assist him in preparing the grave. Pizarro is enraged by Rocco's act of kindness towards the prisoners and they are returned to their quarters.
Deprived of light, air and nourishment, Florestan considers his hopeless situation. In his despair he has a vision of his wife, Leonore, as an angel of light leading him to freedom.
Rocco and Fidelio make their way into the dungeon and begin to prepare the prisoner's grave. Fidelio cannot make out whether the prisoner is Florestan or not but recognises him when he awakes and speaks.
When all is ready, Rocco gives a signal and Pizarro arrives. He identifies himself to Florestan and is about to kill him when Fidelio intervenes, reveals herself to be Leonore and threatens Pizarro with a gun. At that moment, a trumpet call signals the arrival of the Minister, Don Fernando. Pizarro and Rocco go to receive him, leaving Leonore alone with her husband, still in chains.
On behalf of the King, Don Fernando announces a pardon for all prisoners. He is horrified but overjoyed to find Florestan among them, a friend he had long thought to be dead. Pizarro is dismissed. Leonore releases Florestan and the power of human love is proclaimed.