Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shakespearean Opera

Beatrice and Benedict
by Hector Berlioz

Late in his life Hector Berlioz decided to create an opera based on Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado about Nothing. Berlioz had adored Shakespeare ever since attending a performance of Hamlet in 1821 (he encountered his wife to be at the same time). So it was that, after a long career that included Shakespearean influenced works like his Romeo et Juliette, Berlioz began a to write what would become a delightful two act opera to end his career. Yesterday I attended a excellent performance of the opera by The Chicago Opera Theater. Particularly effective was the singing of the leads, Joseph Kaiser and Sandra Piques Eddy. The lovely arias, duets and trios reminded me that Berlioz was one of the greatest composer of French "melodies". The chorus was excellent and the only disappointment was the introduction of Shakespeare's own text in English for the spoken dialog. This was not due to any shortcoming of the text itself, but rather the inability of the actors to project the words effectively, making for some difficulty in following the wonderful verbal wordplay. That aside, it was a wonderful afternoon of opera with Berlioz and Shakespeare the best of guides.

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