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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Berlioz: Béatrice et Bénédict

06/18/2017 1:00 pm
06/18/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Throughout his life Hector Berlioz maintained a passion for Shakespeare. He contemplated setting Much Ado About Nothing as a full-scale Italian opera. Eventually he trimmed his conception down to a delicate and witty two act French comic opera focusing on the two contentious lovers. Béatrice et Bénédict the opera was an immediate success in its 1862 premiere production. It was also the composer's last major work and a most gratifying end to his career. In this composition Berlioz had honed his genius for orchestral scoring to a fine needlepoint. All the expected tonal color and impetuosity is there, plus the vivacious dialog between characters that, although in highly abridged form, comes directly from Shakespeare.

Way back on Sunday, June 22, 1986 I broadcast a classic 1963 recording of Béatrice et Bénédict for British Decca/London. The two stereo LPs were released in Decca's specialty L'Oiseau Lyre line. Mezzo soprano Josephine Veasey is Béatrice. Tenor John Mitchenson is Bénédict. Colin Davis directed the London Symphony Orchestra and St. Anthony Singers. I will be spinning those vintage vinyl platters again this Sunday.