Splendid Beatrice et Benedict from Davis, LSO, etc.
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 11/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"LSO Live continues Sir Colin Davis' second traversal of Hector Berlioz's important orchestral works with an admirable recording of the composer's comic opera Beatrice et Benedict, adapted from Shakespeare's play "Much Ado About Nothing". I have not heard Sir Colin Davis' earlier Philips recording, but suspect that this new CD compares quite well with his earlier interpretation. This recording includes only the music, not the spoken word quotations from Shakespeare's play which are normally part of the opera itself. The sound quality is quite impressive, and this alone guarantees that it is among LSO Live's finest recordings. However, it is also blessed with an excellent performance from the London Symphony Orchestra and soloists. Fans of Berlioz's music as well as of Sir Colin Davis' interpretations of it - for which he has earned a well-deserved reputation as our best contemporary interpreter of Berlioz - will not be disappointed with this recoridng."
The least of Davis's three recordings
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sorry to duplicate an earlier review, but what applied to Davis's effervescent reading of this opera form 1977 on Philips applies here:
Colin Davis has been a one-man band so far as promoting Beatrice and Benedict is concerned. There is much wonderful music in this comic opera--although precious few laughs--and it is best appreciated as Berlioz per se rather than a version of Sshakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The names of the characters are the same but not much else.
Davis has made three versions across the span of his long career, all currently available and all with the London Symphony. The most recent, on LSO Live, derives from a live performance that finds Davis feeling usomewhat ninvolved, with slack tempi and little vivacity in the singing, either. The soloists are good, middle-of-the-road singers who rarely exhibit more than that.
His first version dates from 1962 and is paired with misc. vocal works on a Decca two-fer. It is more lively, and the two leads, Josephine Veasey and John Mitchinson, are much better than their ocunterparts on the later recording.
But the real gem is this version on a Philips Duo. Everything is that much more effervescent, and the inclusion of the French dialogue--not included on his other versions-- adds tremendously to the very Gallic theatrical mood of the opera, which couldn't be less Shakespearean if it tried.
In Janet Baker and Robert Tear Davis has leads who are a couple of notches better than Veasey and Mitchinson, and they make a genuine attempt at vocal acting--the arch disdain between these two ironic lovers is palpable. By 1977 neither was in freshest voice, but that isn't a major consideration. Altogether this is a delightful version, the best on CD, and at a bargain price. No libretto, alas. The LSO Live version may have one--I only possess a burned copy of that performance--a high probability since the other works in that cycle do contain full texts.
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 10/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"DYNAMIC DUO; SIR COLIN DAVIS AND HECTOR BERLIOZ!
'Beatrice and Benedict' is sung in French without dialogue and recorded live at the Barbicon Centre June 6th & 8th, 2000, The accompanying 32 page booklet includes a composer feature programme note by the Berlioz specialist David Cairns, artist biographies and full libretto.
Berlioz frequently turned to Shakespeare for inspiration, and in 'Beatrice et Benedict' produced a delightful and sensuous score on 'Much Ado About Nothing'. This brilliant young cast excell in some of Berlioz's most beautifully crafted and elegant music, under the inspirational guidance of Sir Colin Davis.
These discs capture the scintillating warmth of performance when the London Symphony Orchestra was in virtuostic form. A limpid and exhilarating delight is created by Enkelejda Shkosa and Kenneth Tarver in the title roles. Susan Gritton's 'Hero' is outstanding, and Davis touches everything with quicksilver. All of this enables the listener to concentrate on the exquisite, enchanted score.
The sum total is nothing short of fabulous, with excellent sound quality, and the spine-tingling spontanaeity which comes from recording concert performances."