Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini Prom - JE Gardiner

Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini Prom at the Royal Alberrt Hall, London, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique . A stirring performance, bursting with Berliozian brio !  Robert Hugill, writing in Opera Today (please see full link here) says it had "a rhythmic tightness and brilliance which belied the music's complexity and Gardiner's speeds certainly took no prisoners so that the Carnival scene was completely dazzling in many ways as choir, soloists and orchestra articulated Berlioz' busy and complex rhythms whilst keeping the whole sparkling and fun. The finale, with the casting of Perseus, was equally devastating".  I'd absolutely concur. Benvenuto Cellini is a big, big beast which thrives on energy. No stodge, please. 

Gardiner's use of period instruments and period-informed practice paid off well. "The narrow bore brass, including cornets as well as trumpets, and an ophecleide (!) made a strongly characterful impression without overbalancing in the way can happen with modern instruments and the period wind (with four bassoons) were similarly characterful and colourful. And it was this sense of a wider range of colour that we took away from the performance, something that Gardiner seemed to relish. The period strings were lighter in colour and far less dominant in the busy passages, making the whole full of lovely detail, which meant we could appreciate the sheer skill of all the performers."

Good singing, good playing and above all, an electrifying sense of theatre, even semi staged. 

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