Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera, however he wrote four different overtures for it. The numbering and titles of those overtures are somewhat confusing. Here’s why: The opera was premiered in 1805 under the title Leonore, Oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe (“Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love”). The overture for that performance is believed to be what is known as the Leonora Overture No 2, Opus 72a.
When the opera was presented again in 1806, Beethoven tightened up No 2 and wrote the Leonora Overture No 3, Opus 72b. This is the overture that is most often heard in concert halls as a stand-alone piece.
There was a planned performance of the opera in Prague and for some reason, scholars call the overture for this performance Opus 138. I don’t think I’ve ever played or heard this version.
Finally, for the 1814 revival and reworking of the opera, he wrote a completely new Overture entitled Fidelio. I love this piece and how it plays with alternating C major and E major. Wonderful.
I’m including links to all four overtures. Please enjoy this wonderful outpouring of music by the master. More on the opera next week.
Leonora Overture No 2 Opus 72a
Leonora Overture No 3 Opus 72b
Leonora Overture No 1 Opus 138