Béatrice et Bénédict
Opera Comique in two acts (1862)
Music and Libretto by Hector Berlioz
Recorded at the Glyndebourne Festival, August 2016
Performed in French with English Subtitles
A delightfully sparkling opéra comique, Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict was inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In summer 2016, honouring the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, the Glyndebourne Festival presented its first-ever staging of the work.
Laurent Pelly made an ideal choice of director. “In both the opera house and the theatre I like to tackle forms that are unconventional and not typically classical,” he says, “and to make unlikely, idiosyncratic pieces work … That applies to Béatrice et Bénédict.” He has spoken of the “precision of emotional detail” in the piece, pointing out the way farce and fantasy are juxtaposed with depth of feeling. As Opera magazine wrote of a decisive moment in the drama: “Rarely are we offered such moving, sensitive insight into a character’s state of mind; rarely does a theatrical gesture articulate so poignantly what is suggested by the music.”
Working with designer Barbara de Limburg he created an elegant, monochrome world in which boxes magically open to reveal objects, characters and action. The title roles are taken by the brilliant French mezzo-soprano Stéphanie d’Oustrac and the charming American tenor Paul Appleby, who are joined by Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser, Serbian mezzo Katarina Bradiæ and Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly. Antonello Manacorda conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.