Long Story Short
Girl dresses up as a guy and takes a prison job in order to free her unjustly imprisoned husband.
Leonore is a brave young woman who will risk anything to rescue the man she loves. She fools
everybody into thinking she's a young man named "Fidelio" (meaning "Faithful").
Florestan is Leonore's husband and an outspoken enemy of tyranny and injustice. He has been
rotting in a dungeon for two years and is near death.
Don Pizarro is the evil overseer of the prison.
Rocco the prison warden, is Fidelio's boss, Don Pizarro's lackey, and a person of
unusually ambiguous morality.
Marzelline Rocco's daughter, is in love with "Fidelio."
Jacquino another young man who works in the prison, is in love with Marzelline.
Don Fernando is Don Pizarro's boss, Florestan's friend, and the local minister of state.
Where and When?
In and around a prison in Spain. While Beethoven set this story in the late 1700s, opera houses
today often update the timeless action.
What's Going On?
Two years ago, Florestan dared to denounce Don Pizarro, who promptly had him
arrested and thrown in a dank and smelly prison. Florestan's wife, Leonore, set out
to rescue him; she disguised herself as a boy, knocked on Rocco's door, and got a
job working in Pizarro's prison. When we join the story, young Jacquino is wooing
Marzelline; Marzelline only has eyes for "Fidelio," whom her father thinks a
hard-working and clever young man; and "Fidelio" is still trying to locate Florestan,
who is being held down in solitary confinement in the maximum security wing.
Rocco declares he will allow "Fidelio" to marry his daughter. While Leonore is
understandably anxious about the logistics of such a marriage, she is pleased that
she has earned so much trust. She encourages Rocco to give her additional
responsibilities around the prison, such as helping out down in the dungeon.
And it turns out that Rocco needs her help. Don Pizarro has received word that
Don Fernando is planning to drop by and make a surprise inspection of the prison.
Worried that Fernando might find his old friend Florestan (whom Fernando believes
dead), Don Pizarro decides Florestan must die and tells Rocco to attend to it.
Rocco-who has been slowly starving Florestan, as per Pizarro's orders-draws the
line at murder, so Don Pizarro decides to do it himself. He tells Rocco to go down
into the dungeon and dig a grave in Florestan's cell. Rocco takes Fidelio down to
help him, and, in the dungeons, wife is reunited with husband, villain confronts
victim, and the lives of all four change forever.