Beatrice and Benedict
Berliotz’s last opera is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s playful comedy Much Ado About Nothing and, sung in English, is perhaps one of the more accessible starter operas around. The story focuses its attentions on the bickering lovers Beatrice and Benedict. In the introduction, it was explained that Robin Tritschler (Benedict) was recovering from a head cold. However, his ill-health did not adversely affect his vocal performance.
The comic opera leaves a lot to be desired dramatically, at worst becoming a farcical pantomime that loses much of the joy and sparkle of the original. As such, a lot of the things that don’t work in productions of the piece are largely not the company’s fault. Still, one can see aspects of the two act show that continue to give it some appeal to Welsh National Opera - the bright musical beauty of the overture, which is often performed as a stand-alone piece, and the nocturne between Hero (Laura Mitchell) and Ursula (Anna Burford) being two prime examples.
For this WNO production there are some other highlights. Donald Maxwell reprises his well-judged comic cameo as baritone chorus master Somarone. His inviting performance induces many an audience guffaw thanks to topical improvised lines relating to certain television insurance advertisements. The orchestra, conducted by Michael Hofstetter, brings some warmth to proceedings as does the excellent lighting (Howard Harrison) which offers atmosphere, a big pizza-pie moon and a sense of movement to an otherwise static stage set. Unfortunately, the tepid script and largely spiritless cast flatten the rest of the proceedings.
Read my review on The Stage website: http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/35307/beatrice-and-benedict