Béatrice et Bénédict (Hector Berlioz) – contemporary reviews


Opéra-comique in 2 acts

Music and libretto by Hector Berlioz, after Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

First performed: Theater Baden-Baden, Germany, 9 August 1862



Félix Clément, Dictionnaire des opéras, supplement, 1876

Berlioz wrote better in prose than in verse, and I even believe that his music owes much of his fame to the author’s writings; but here is a sample of his poetry.  It will add nothing to his glory.

Le vin de Syracuse
Une grande chaleur
Au cœur.
De notre île
De Sicile,
Vive ce fameux vin
Si fin !
La plus noble flamme,
Douce à l’âme
Comme au cœur
Du buveur
C’est la liqueur vermeille
De la treille
Des coteaux de Marsala
Qui l’a.
Poète divin,
Ta muse
Tu le vois,
De notre patience ;
Assez d’éloquence !
Rimeur aux abois,
Bois !

In this opera, Berlioz mixed up familiar and buffoon scenes with others of an elevated character; but if the piece is weird, the music is even more so.  Discordant modulations, sounds that clatter without ideas, phrases that are disjointed and badly written for voices, tunes scarce and always tormented, that is what all men of taste and without bias will recognize in this opera.  The three pieces that were well received, and which deserved to be, are those in which Berlioz conformed to the traditional principles of harmony and the rules of common sense applied to the ideal composition.  These pieces are: Héro and Ursule’s very poetic and charming nocturnal duo: Vous soupirez, madame!;  Béatrice’s aria: Dieu, que viens-je d’entendre! and the trio that follows: Je vais d’un cœur aimant.  I will add the grotesque epithalamion: Mourez, tendres époux! written in the madrigal style of the Flemish schools of the sixteenth century, and a sicilienne, though more strange than pleasant to hear.  Cast: Béatrice, Mme Charton-Demeur; Héro, Mlle Monrose; Ursule, Mme Geoffroy; Bénédict, Montaubry; Claudio, Lefort; Don Pedro, Balanqué; Somarone, Prilleux; Leonato, Guerrin.

Source: Art Lyrique Français