Evoking warm summer nights when love is in the air, Hector Berlioz reimagined Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing as the bright, sunny opera Beatrice and Benedict.
Berlioz held a life-long love for the plays of Shakespeare, and Beatrice and Benedict, one of his final major pieces, marks the summation of his Shakespearean obsession in a light, lyrical score, concise and brimming over with memorable melodies, that’s full of musical high spirits and humour.
SCO Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati has chosen this, the last of the composer's major works to be performed with the Orchestra, to open the 13/14 40th Anniversary Season in Edinburgh, 3 October and Glasgow, 4 October.
Returning to Sicily as a war hero, Benedict is tricked by his comrades into feigning love for the prickly Beatrice – who is the subject of similar subterfuge from her own attendants. But at the marriage ceremony of two friends, the pretend lovers discover that their feelings are truer than they dared admit.
"Beatrice and Benedict is Berlioz’s last opera – it’s Berlioz the man responding to his love of Shakespeare, particularly the giddy summer nights of Much Ado about Nothing.
"Berlioz takes away a lot of the darkness in the play and focuses on the couples – Beatrice and Benedict, and Hero and Claudio – and the journeys they make.
‘We’re doing it as a concert performance without the dialogue – in that form it really works without a staging. You can tell the story with just the music, and let the audience bring their own set design and costumes – then you can create something very different and very special."
"Beatrice and Benedict is a fun piece – that’s the most important thing. Berlioz has such a unique way of writing, and of creating colours and textures within the orchestra, that you understand immediately the journeys that the characters are on.
‘My character, Beatrice, is quite a complex individual – she’s not sure that she believes in love, or maybe that’s just what she portrays – deep down, I think she’s looking for love. At the start of the piece she’s quite cheeky with Benedict, pretending that she doesn’t care about him, but by the end she realises that they’re in love."
"The music of Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict is simply beautiful. It’s a gift to sing – Berlioz knew exactly how to write for the voice. It’s full of beautiful lines. My challenge as a singer is to try to get to the heart of what the composer wanted and communicate the story in the best way I can.
‘For a singer, performing an opera on the concert stage is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have – it gives you the chance to connect so closely with the conductor and orchestra. It’s something I really enjoy and look forward to, especially with my good friends Robin Ticciati and Karen Cargill."
Karen and Sally are joined by Kenneth Tarver as Benedict, Kathleen Wilkinson as Ursula, Brindley Sherratt as Don Pedro, Lionel Lhote as Somarone, Ashley Riches as Claudio and the SCO Chorus.
Beatrice and Benedict is sponsored by