"Fidelio" by Beethoven
Lucia Popp, Gundula Janowitz, Hans Sotin, Manfred Jungwirth, Rene Kollo - Leonard Bernstein conducting the Wiener Staatsoper
It's not often that you find an opera on DVD that has it all---great singing, great conducting, great orchestral support, and a production that doesn't make you wince when you see it. This recording of Fidelio---Beethoven's only opera---does have it all, and it's not only the best production of the work on DVD, but has to be among the best in terms of all opera on DVD that is available right now.
To start with, the singers are all top notch; Gundula Janowitz is in the title role, and while her voice does strain some (whose wouldn't singing Fidelio?), she sings with great technique, passion, pathos, and does it all while acting the role, too (something too often neglected). She brings Fidelio/Leonora to life and shows the emotions of being so close to her near-dead husband in one of the best portayals I've seen on stage.
The rest of the cast shines, too; Rene Kollo lands his Act II aria with perfection and plays a great Florestan; Hans Sotin is a heavier Pizarro than some may be used to, but his voice soars through the house and he plays a perfect villain, if not somewhat more anxious than evil; Manfred Jungwirth as the old jailer Rocco provides a steady, firm presence on stage, and a young Lucia Popp as Marzelline sings beautifully as well.
It should also be mentioned that this opera is extremely difficult for all singers involved, and while it might have been easy for them to just give the stand and sing treatment, they don't--everyone acts well, and truly brings drama to what is both a harrowing and exciting story.