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Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini / Gergiev, Petrenko, Naouri, Burkhard

Berlioz / Burkhard / Naouri / Brindley / Petrenko
Release Date: 12/15/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 2110271  
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Burkhard FritzMikhail PetrenkoLaurent NaouriKate Aldrich,   ... 
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Hector Berlioz

Benvenuto Cellini – Burkhard Fritz
Teresa – Maija Kovalevska
Fieramosca – Laurent Naouri
Giacomo Balducci – Brindley Sherratt
Pope Clemens VII – Mikhail Petrenko
Ascanio – Kate Aldrich
Francesco – Xavier Mas
Bernardino – Roberto Tagliavini
Pompeo – Adam Plachetka
Innkeeper – Sung-Keun Park

Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Valery Gergiev, conductor

Philipp Stölzl, stage director and stage designer
Kathi Maurer, costume design
Duane Schuler,
Read more lighting design
Mara Kurotschka, choreographer

Filmed at the Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg, 5, 10 and 15 August 2007.

Picture format: NTSC 19:9
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0 / Dolby Surround 5.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French
Running time: 164 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)



BERLIOZ Benvenuto Cellini Valery Gergiev, cond; Burkhard Fritz ( Cellini ); Maija Kovaleska ( Teresa ); Laurent Naouri ( Fieramosca ); Kate Aldrich ( Ascanio ); Brindley Sherratt ( Balducci ); Mikhail Petrenko ( Pope Clement VII ); Vienna State Op Ch; Vienna PO NAXOS 2.110271 (DVD: 163:35) Live: Salzburg 8/5-10-15/2007

This is an eye-popping extravaganza in which stage business keeps pace with, and too often trumps, Berlioz’s most coruscatingly vibrant and scintillantly compelling score. Cellini appears in a helicopter at the rooftop porch of Balducci’s penthouse, framed against the New York skyline; robots help Teresa with her toilet (including shaving her armpits) as Maija Kovaleska delivers herself of her big aria with virtuosic aplomb; Ascanio, too, is a robot—Kate Aldrich deliciously does her “Tra-la-la” aria with head removed (at stage level); Pompeo is a pimp, and hookers are a significant portion of the Mardi Gras crowd; the wheedling Asian innkeeper brandishes an assault rifle; and so on. The animation of static moments—in terms of staging—is clever, entertaining, and often riveting. The Mardi Gras itself is a credibly incredible triumph of garish color, comic incident, choreographically turned hurlyburly, and drama. Even those who care little for Berlioz’s music will find themselves entranced by the spectacle, while those with some regard for the composer may be alternately delighted and appalled. Berlioz’s conception of the artist as a romantic hero is a major casualty. As Cellini, Burkhard Fritz is in heroic voice and magnificent swagger but portrays his man as a gangster; while, between Mardi Gras and his appearance at his atelier, the director has foisted upon him a gratuitous wound, allowing the camera to make much of his pained expressions and bloodied clothes. Why? Pompeo’s blustering aria, boasting his fencing prowess, has been transferred to Fieramosca, which makes no sense whatever as the latter is—and is played throughout to great comic effect by Laurent Naouri—a sneaking pantywaist. English subtitles render maîtres ciseleurs as “master engravers,” a literal translation that ignores Berlioz’s usage to mean master goldsmiths while making nonsense of the Dionysian hymn he lavished upon Cellini’s foundrymen. We never see the Perseus , the statue Cellini’s been commissioned to cast, instead, the mold he threatens to destroy as Pope Clement rebukes him is a picayune Winged Victory of Samothrace —another disturbing dissonance between Berlioz’s straightforward dramatic narrative and director Philipp Stölzl’s pointless, would-be-clever dinking. Within the often silly parameters just outlined, vocally and histrionically this production is beyond all praise. Valery Gergiev’s direction is surefire, though others—Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington—have found deeper resonance through significant portions of the score, while the never less than virtuosic Vienna Philharmonic is massive where Berlioz is lean and sinewy. Nevertheless, one comes to the end stunned, thrilled, and viscerally moved. As the cast took richly deserved bows, I, alone in my hovel, stood and cheered! Naxos’s surround sound lets no detail of this teeming, overfull, overrich score escape, delivering all with overwhelming punch. Despite all caveats, highest recommendation.

FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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Works on This Recording

Benvenuto Cellini by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Burkhard Fritz (Tenor), Mikhail Petrenko (Bass), Laurent Naouri (Baritone),
Kate Aldrich (Mezzo Soprano), Brindley Sherratt (Bass), Maija Kovalevska (Soprano)
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834-1837; France 

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