FidelioLudwig van Beethoven
Don Pizarro, the governor of a Spanish state prison, has instituted a reign of terror in his establishment. Innocent citizens aree often the political victims of his brutal nature. Florestan of Seville determines to put an end to this despotism., but in the process falls into the hands of this man of violence.
For over two years he has languished in solitary confinement under inhuman conditions. His friends believe him dead, and only his ife Leonore has not given him up for lost since his disappearance. Suspecting that Florestan has been imprisoned, she enters into service as a warder with the gaoler Rocco. She carries out her heavy work in men´s clothing under the name of Fidelio, gaining he confidence of her superior and even winning the love of his daughter Marzelline.
In vain the gatekeeper Jacquino vies fort he affection of Marzelline. She, however, has been indifferent to his approaches ever since Fidelio has been working there. Fidelio/Leonore returns from Seville where she has been attending to some business. Rocco is once again very pleased with his new assistant´s cleverness and sense of duty very soon Fidelio and Marzelline will be united as one. Marzelline and Rocco dream of a happy future, Jacquino sees his prospects vanishing, and Fidelio / Leonore dreads the uncertainty. Then Don Pizarro appears on the scene. From a confidential letter he learns that the minister has got wind of his abuse of office, and hopes to catch Don Pizarro out with a surprise vsit. Pizarro reacts promptly tot he situation: a warder is sent to watch the main road and signal the minister´s arrival with a trumpet signal. Florestan, the most prominent victim, must be eliminated as fast as possible. As Rocco refuses to commit a murder, the gvernor determines to carry out the deed himself. However, first the gaoler must dig him a grave in the dungeon. Marzelline and Fidelio / Leonore ask Rocco to allow the petty criminals out for a while. Full of joy, the prisoners enjoy the warm spring sun – in vain Fidelio / Leonore watches for a familiar face. To her dismay she learns of Rocco´s latest task, and asks to share his heavy work in the dungeon with him. Will she have to help dig her own husband´s grave? Furious, Pizarro notices the prisoners´walking about, and will accept no excuses. Only his pressing plan to murder Florestan prevents terrible consequences.
In the dungeon the weakened Florestan ponders his fate. His situation seems hopeless, and he is consoled only by the knowledge that he has done his duty. In an estatic vision he imagines that he is transported to heavenly freedom by an angel with the countenance of Leonore. Rocco and Fidelio / Leonore laboriously open up a cistern. Florestan finally learns who the governor of this prison is, and wants to send word to his wife in Seville. Fidelio / Leonore now knows for certain sho the man before her is. It would seem that a light meal of bread and wine ist o be Florestan´s last earthly pleasure, when Pizarro is heard approaching. As he draws back to deal the fatal blow, Fidelio / Leonore jumps in front oft he prisoner crying „First kill his wife!“ As she points a pistol at Pizarro, the trumpet signal is heard. The arrival oft he minister promises a different turn of events: release fort he oppressed, punishment fort he oppressor. Pizarro rushes out of the dungeon, Rocco dissociates himself from his former master, and Leonore and Florestan rush delighted into one another´s arms. _ Eagerly the people and the prisoners welcome the minister Don Fernando on the parade ground in front oft he palace. In the name oft he king, the minister pronounces a general amnesty and the end of political despotism. He recognizes Florestan as his old friend long supposed dead. Leonore is allowed to release the chains oft he man who has been humiliated for so long, and Pizarro is arrested. The jubilant crown applauds the reunited couple, raising their voices in praise of true love: „Never can one extol too highly the woman who saves her own husband!“