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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: August 2020



In one dramatic scene in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, the tyrant Don Pizarro suddenly appears in the dungeon cell of the imprisoned rebel Florestan. At the sight of Don Pizarro, Florestan spontaneously exclaims, “A murderer stands before me!” Exalted through Beethoven’s music, this prisoner shows reckless courage in the face of evil. Placed into a cultural context, the moment epitomizes a German version of a wider mythic ideal: the hero flouting the despot. Florestan’s bold act is a model for what stirs people’s hearts. It may come to mind in studying later episodes in German history.