Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Libretto by  Joseph Sonnleithner


Act I

A prison, in the present day. Jaquino is wooing Marzelline, with little success; Marzelline refuses his advances because she loves young “Fidelio,” her father Rocco’s new assistant. Fidelio, however, is really a woman named Leonore; she disguised herself in order to search for her husband, Florestan, who was imprisoned two years earlier for his political views. Rocco, pleased with Fidelio’s diligence and ingenuity, gives his blessing to the wedding of Fidelio and Marzelline.

Leonore offers to assist Rocco with the restricted lower cells of the prison. The prison governor, Don Pizarro, must approve such a request, says Rocco, and even if he did there would still be one cell Fidelio could never enter. Marzelline asks if that is the location of the “special prisoner” she’s heard Rocco mention. Upon learning that the prisoner has been there for two years, Leonore realizes it could be her husband.

Don Pizarro arrives with soldiers. He is handed a letter alerting him to a visit by the Minister of State, Don Fernando, who is coming to investigate charges that Pizarro is holding political prisoners. Distressed by the possibility that Fernando will discover Florestan (who Fernando thinks died two years ago), Pizarro vents his fear and anger, then orders Rocco to kill Florestan. But Rocco—who ordinarily is easily bullied into doing Pizarro’s dirty work for him—draws the line at murder. Pizarro orders Rocco to dig a grave while Pizarro kills the prisoner himself. Leonore, who has overheard, denounces Pizarro and resolves to save her husband.

Leonore and Marzelline persuade Rocco to let the prisoners walk in the yard. Blinded by daylight, the prisoners enjoy a moment of freedom as Leonore looks for Florestan among them.

Rocco, having gained Pizarro’s consent, asks Leonore to accompany him to the forbidden cell. Marzelline and Jaquino enter with the news that Pizarro is in a rage about the prisoners’ walk in the yard. Pizarro enters and confronts Rocco, who explains that this is a diversion while Florestan is killed. Pizarro orders the prisoners locked up and tells Rocco to meet him downstairs.

Act II

Florestan, near despair and death, accepts his misfortune from having taken a stand against injustice. He imagines Leonore as an angel, leading him to heavenly freedom, then falls, exhausted.

Rocco and Leonore enter the cell. At first, Leonore does not recognize the prisoner. When she hears his voice, however, she realizes it is her husband. Pizarro enters and identifies himself as the man Florestan had sought to overthrow years ago. As Pizarro moves to murder Florestan, Leonore rushes between them, crying out, “First, kill his wife!” There is a struggle, but suddenly a trumpet call signals the arrival of Don Fernando. Jaquino enters with guards to escort Pizarro away. Overcome with joy and relief, Leonore and Florestan embrace.

Outside, people fill the prison courtyard. The crowd hails Fernando as an emissary of their enlightened leader, releasing the prisoners from unjust imprisonment. Rocco presents Leonore and Florestan to Fernando, who is astonished that his friend is alive.

After hearing of Florestan’s misfortunes and Leonore’s heroism, the crowd calls for Pizarro’s immediate arrest. Fernando gives Leonore a key so she can remove Florestan’s chains, and the crowd salutes the depth of her courage and love.


-Courtesy of Seattle Opera