LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Berlioz
WORKS: Béatrice et Bénédict
PERFORMER: Stéphanie d’Oustrac, Paul Appleby, Philippe Sly, Sophie Karthäuser, Lionel Lhote, Frédéric Caton, Katarina Bradic; Glyndebourne Chorus; LPO/Antonello Manacorda;
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OA 1239 D; Blu-ray: OA BD7219 D
Béatrice et Bénédict, Berlioz’s last work for the stage, was his final homage to his beloved Shakespeare. So where does this production place the composer’s quick-witted quarrelling lovers? Not Shakespeare’s Renaissance Sicily that’s for sure – not even Sicily. This is Pellyland, a deeply satisfying comic world with its own style conjured up for Glyndebourne by one of the most assured opera directors at work today.
It’s a study in grey. Field grey uniforms for the returning soldier, a grey morning suit for Léonato and a grey skirt and shoes for his niece Béatrice. Even the lighting seems grey. That’s because the colour is in the orchestra, according to Pelly and his conductor Antonello Mancorda. The London Philharmonic Orchestra rise magnificently to the challenge of Berlioz’s vibrant orchestration and daring harmonies. The set is a sequence of grey moving boxes, sometimes providing lidded stadiums for the cheering chorus and then stacked vertiginously to suggest a town. This reflects Pelly’s idea that Béatrice and Bénédict are ‘two people who refuse to fit into a mould and live in a box’.
Stéphanie d’Oustrac is a perfect Béatrice, a comic actress with impeccable timing who relishes every word of Agathe Mélinand’s freshly minted dialogue. There’s fine singing, too, with a heart stopping ‘Il m’en souvient’ in Act II. Paul Appleby’s Bénédict is much more than the bluff soldier when he marches into Act I – a handsome presence and a handsome voice. As always the Nocturne that ends Act I casts its inimitable spell over the whole work, sung here by Sophie Karthäuser’s Hero and her companion Ursule (Katarina Brandic). Pelly deftly stops the business and makes us just listen.
Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.