Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Béatrice et Bénédict
Director: Laurent Pelly
Conductor: Antonello Manacorda*
Béatrice, niece of Léonato: Stéphanie d’Oustrac (soprano)
Bénédict, Sicilian officer: Paul Appleby (tenor)
Héro, daughter of Léonato: Sophie Karthäuser (soprano)
Claudio, general's aide-de-camp: Philippe Sly (baritone)
Somarone, a music master: Lionel Lhote (bass)
Don Pedro, Sicilian general: Frédéric Caton (bass)
Ursule: Katarina Bradić (contralto)
Léonato, Governor of Messina: ? (spoken)
This is utterly charming. I am speaking of Hector Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict from Glyndebourne. It is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and has a libretto by Berlioz. Beatrice has fallen victim to love, and she is pissed.
It's staged like a movie in black and white with the set pieces mostly made up of gray boxes. Symbolism. You knew that. Beatrice does not wish to be in a box. At the end she appears with her Benedict in one of the boxes and declares that tomorrow they will be enemies again.
It is an opera comique that is nothing like an Italian opera buffa. Frantic tempos are replaced by sweet melodies. Spoken French dialog replaces recitative. There is a buffo bass (Somarone) and a lovely, marvelously comic couple that find each other at the end.
I have long loved Berlioz, read The Aeneid because I knew he loved it. You can feel throughout this excellent opera with duets and trios of female voices, comic choruses and a comic tenor and soprano, how very much he loved Shakespeare.
Philippe Sly looked like the man on the wedding cake when he marries Hero, but it seems he was hired for his beauty and his excellent French because he hardly sings at all.