Opera/Fidelio or Turandot
I'm planning a trip to Vienna and want to attend a performance at the Staatsoper. I have a classical music background but limited experience with full opera (arias, yes). My options are either Fidelio or Turandot. Since I lean to Romantic/Late Romantic, I'm thinking Puccini is probably the better choice. But it feels sacrilegious not to see Beethoven in his hometown. (I do love Beethoven, too, especially his 7th). Any thoughts on which work might offer the most rewarding experience? Thanks.
I see that you are in a real dilemma. I can't answer for you; I can only answer for me. So...
I don't think I've ever seen a performance of an opera in a composer's hometown and it has never affected my enjoyment of the performance. So I wouldn't worry about that part unless it is something that is really important to you.
The first thing I did was to check the Vienna State Opera website--which told me that the operas are during different time frames--to see who was in each opera, since I generally go more for the singers than for the opera (except for rare operas, which neither of these are, especially Turandot which every company seems to do these days), but I didn't get a good answer from that either. Fidelio has Robert Dean Smith as Florestan (but he is only in the second half of the opera) and Turandot has the up-and-coming Lise Lindstrom as Turandot (ditto, actually). I would very much like to see either of these singers, neither of whom I have seen before. Nina Stemme who is in Fidelio and Johan Botha who is in Turandot are both very good as well; I have seen both of them: Johan Botha in Meistersinger at the Met last December, and Nina Stemme as Isolde in Houston in 2013. So, no clear-cut answer there.
Next, have you seen either of these operas before? If you have, then I'd pick the other one. If you haven't seen either of them (which I suspect is the case since you didn't mention otherwise and might not even be wondering about this if you have) or you've seen both of them before, then this doesn't help.
One other possibility is to watch a video of each of them and then decide if one speaks to you more than the other. YouTube has lots of complete operas one can watch there for free although I didn't check to see if that was true in this case. Also, lots of libraries will let you borrow DVDs these days.
For myself, I found Fidelio rough going for a number of years before I finally got into it (it didn't help that the first recording I heard of it was from the 1940s and had dreadful sound), whereas I got into Turandot from the first time I heard it. That's not necessarily going to mean that you will react the same way I did. Plus Turandot has "Nessun dorma" which everybody from soprano to bass and their dog seems to sing nowadays, so you are almost certain to have heard it before.
So, I would trust my initial instincts and go with the Puccini, especially if you like large-scale productions, which Turandot lends itself to much more than Fidelio. That is, unless you can get to New York and see Lise Lindstrom as Turandot; she will be performing the role there five times from October 22 through November 7. I get the impression that her Turandot is something to remember; I wish I could see her myself. If you can see her as Turandot in New York or elsewhere and none of these other things I have suggested are deal-makers for you, then go with Fidelio but make sure to see Mme. Lindstom in Turandot. Otherwise, my Vienna Staatsoper opera of choice would be Turandot.
I hope this helps...