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Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini / Nelson, Kunde, Et Al


Release Date: 01/11/2005 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 45706   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Laurent NaouriRenaud DelaiguesEric SalhaEric Huchet,   ... 
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio OrchestraFrench National Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 8 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


Were I inclined to study and report on the performance history of this opera--during Berlioz's lifetime alone--it would take far too long and not be all that enlightening. Suffice it to say that every one of the dozen-or-so times it was presented, some change or other was demanded either by the opera house, a singer, or Berlioz's own sense of what was "right". As a truly superficial overview, however, we can cite the "original" score, that is, the first version set down on paper in 1838, as "Paris 1"; another score exists that reflects the changes made by the time the Paris Opéra gave it late in 1839, referred to as "Paris 2"; and then there's the
Read more "Weimar version" of 1852, which includes alterations by Liszt and von Bulow, and that also divides the opera into three acts. Other minor additions and subtractions also exist.


What we have on this recording, made either at or around performances given during December, 2003 at Radio France, is an edition put together by conductor John Nelson. For the most part it is the "Paris 1" version, which includes a different ending to the famous overture, an aria for Teresa near the opera's start that was later replaced (by a less simple, more florid one), an aria for Balducci, and some choral work. But from later versions, Nelson has added some orchestral passages, Ascanio's stunning aria, and a few other bits of music. Teresa's more familiar aria and one later added for Cellini are included as an appendix at the end of the third CD. Nelson's is an edition not to be argued with: it certainly works as well as or better than that used by Colin Davis in his remarkable 30-year-old recording on Philips.

Comparing this new set with Davis', you notice Davis' smoothness as it contrasts with Nelson's jumpier, underlined rhythmic oddnesses. I prefer Nelson's approach: not only are Berlioz's rhythms his calling cards, but in this opera, particularly in the comic and Carnival scenes (the Cellini/Teresa/Fieramosca trio in the first tableau is uniquely funny, the musical equivalent of a Marx Brothers skit), they help define the action. Davis seems more interested in orchestral detail, but Nelson's energy and forward propulsion, which sometimes doesn't allow for that attention to detail, is infectious. There is something unwieldy about this opera, but Nelson makes that unwieldiness appealing. The situations are grand, busy, and complicated, and Nelson invites us in.

The cast meets the standards of--and in a case or two, surpasses--that of the Davis recording. Patrizia Ciofi here easily outsings and outcharms Christiane Eda-Pierre. Ciofi's voice is bright, delicate, and young-sounding, her rarely needed coloratura is impeccable, her ensemble work professional and well-integrated. Her French pronunciation is excellent. The American tenor Gregory Kunde, under-recorded 10-and-more years ago when he was a superb, agile, clear-voiced Rossinian (an exception is an Armida on Sony from '94), stunningly fills in for Roberto Alagna, who was supposed to sing Cellini. He scrupulously obeys Berlioz's dynamic markings, even when they seem outlandish--phrases floating pianissimo up to and around high B-flats and higher--and his French style and class are on a par with Nicolai Gedda's: quite a compliment. An occasional rawness enters his tone, but the operative word is "occasional"; his Cellini is of the highest order. The duet for Cellini and Teresa in the third tableau is ravishing. Mezzo Joyce DiDonato sings Ascanio with an enthusiasm that ideally characterizes Cellini's apprentice: she nearly dominates every scene she's in.


The rest of the cast are equally "in" their roles, from the superbly loud-mouthed Fieramosca of Jean-François Lapointe to the nagging Balducci of Laurent Naouri. These and the smaller roles are all taken by native French speakers, and they are ideally rehearsed and characterized. As suggested, Nelson's conducting is rambunctious without ever being sloppy and the chorus and orchestra of Radio France are at their most polished. This show is a grand experience, and in all it makes sense of this rambling, complex work in a way that even Davis doesn't. There's more life in the new set--and at 3 discs for the price of 2, it's even better value. [2/5/2005]
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Benvenuto Cellini by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Laurent Naouri (Baritone), Renaud Delaigues (Bass), Eric Salha (Tenor),
Eric Huchet (Tenor), Marc Mauillon (Baritone), Ronan Nédélec (Baritone),
Patrizia Ciofi (Soprano), Gregory Kunde (Tenor), Jean-François Lapointe (Baritone),
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra,  French National Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834-1837; France 
2. Benvenuto Cellini: Entre l'amour et le devoir by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Patrizia Ciofi (Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834-1837; France 
3. Benvenuto Cellini: La gloire était ma seule idole by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Gregory Kunde (Tenor)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Radio Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834-1837; France 

Sound Samples

Benvenuto Cellini: Overture (Paris 1 version)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 1: Introduction - Teresa!...mais ou peut elle etre (Balducci/Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 1: Air - Ne regardez jamais la lune (Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 1: Choeur de masques - Enfin il est sorti (Teresa/Balducci/Cellini/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 2: Récit - Les bells fleurs!... (Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 2: Romance - Ah! que l'amour une fois dans le coeur (Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 2: Romance - Heureuse celle à qui jamais l'amour (Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 3: Cellini! Teresa! ne fuyez pas (Teresa/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 3: Trio - O mon bonheur, vous que j'aime (Cellini/Fieramosca/Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 3: Trio - Ah! mourir, chère et belle (Cellini/Fieramosca/Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 4, 5, & 6: Récitatif - Ciel! Nous sommes perdus (Teresa/Cellini/Fieramosca/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 4, 5, & 6: Final - A nous voisines et servantes! (Teresa/Fieramosca/Baldicci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Premier Tableau, Scene 7: Final - Ah, ah maitre drole, ah libertin (Choeur/Teresa/Fieramosca/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 8 bis: A boire, a boire! (Cellini/Fraancesco/Bernardino/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 8 bis: Chant des cisleurs - Si la terre aux beaux jours se couronne (Cellini/Francesco/Bernadino/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Recit et Scene 9: Amis, avant qu'on recommence (Bernadino/Choeur/Cabaretier/Cellini/Francesco/Ascanio)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 10: Air - Cette somme t'est due (Ascanio/Cellini/Bernadino/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 10: Ecoutez, tout a l'heure... (Les mêmes)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 11: Récitatif - C'est trop fort! (Fieramosca/Pompeo)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 11: Air - Ah! Qui pourrait me résister? (Fieramosca)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 11: Récitatif - Viens, le temps passe (Fieramosca/Pompeo)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Final, Le Carnaval - Vous voyez, j'espère (Balducci/Teresa/Ascanio/Cellini/Fieramosca/Pompeo/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Venez, venez, peuple de Rome (Choeur/Teresa/Balducii/Pompeo/Fieramosca/Ascanio/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Overture de la pantomime - Ah! ah! bravo!(Choeur/Teresa/Balducci/Pompeo/Fieramosca/Ascanio/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Pantomime du roi Midas ou les oreilles d'âne - Voici maître Arlequin (Chouer)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Ariette d'Arlequin - Regardons bien (Chouer)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Cavatine de Pierrot - Il plaît fort (Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Soyez surpris s'il a le prix (Choeur/Teresa/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Viens, pas à pas (hoeur/Teresa/Balducci/Pompeo/Fieramosca/Ascanio/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Assassiner un capucin (Choeur/Teresa/Balducci/Fieramosca/Ascanio/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 1 - Deuxieme Tableau, Scene 12: Maudit canon du fort Saint Ange (Tous)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau: Entracte
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 1: Récit - Ah! qu'est-il devenu? (Teresa/Ascanio/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 1: Prière - Rosa purpurea (Teresa/Ascanio/Choeur)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 2: Ma dague en main (Cellini/Ascanio/Teresa)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 3: Duo - Ah! le ciel, cher époux (Teresa/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 3: Duo - Quand des sommets (Teresa/Cellini)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 5: Quintette - Ah! je te trouve enfin (teresa/Ascanio/Cellini/Fieramosca/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 6: Sextour - Le pape ici! (Teresa/Ascanio/Cellini/Fieramosca/Le Pape/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 6: Justice à nous seigneur! (Teresa/Cellini/Fieramosca/Le Pape/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 6: Dieu! Sur am tête en ce moment (Teresa/Ascanio/Cellini/Fieramosca/Le Pape/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Scene 6: Ah! ça Démon (Teresa/Cellini/Fieramosca/Le Pape/Balducci)
Benvenuto Cellini, Act 2 - Troisieme Tableau, Final: Ah! Maintenant de sa folle impudence (Teresa/Ascanio/Cellini/Fieramosca/Le Pape/Balducci/Choeur)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Superb January 11, 2014 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "This is an excellent recording Berlioz's large-scale operatic account of 16th century Rome and represents a powerful artistic achievement. The singing of the entire cast is top notch, the chorus of Radio France supplies consistently brilliant support, and above all, conductor John Nelson leads the National Orchestra of France in a vibrant, glowing reading of Berlioz's magnificent romantic musical score. Benvenuto Cellini may not be particularly well known, but this version definitely provides the serious opera lover with everything that could be desired. An interesting note is the CD booklet's extended discussion of Berlioz's difficulties in getting Benvenuto Cellini accepted for performance some 170 years ago. Although he eventually succeeded, it wasn't without major revisions and cuts. This recording presents Benvenuto Cellini in Berlioz's original scoring, thus making it an historically significant musical event. I think you will be highly impressed with this excellent recording- it is vintage Berlioz without the over-the-top bombast found in many of his other works. Very much recommended." Report Abuse
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