Benvenuto Cellini (ENO, cinema relay from Coliseum)
I saw the cinema relay of the ENO Benvenuto Cellini last night. With design and staging by Terry Gilliam, perhaps this was designed to be a crowd-pleaser; even by operatic standards a fairly absurd plot, so it perhaps lends itself to Python-treatment. Enjoying the 2-for-1 cinema voucher, the auditorium at the Coliseum looked busier than it has ever been when I’ve been there (on cheap nights at that). I had decided against this until the arrival of the voucher. Despite the limitations of relays, and singing in English (more on this another time) it was delightful. That it is realtively unknown helped with the translation: the lovely Boheme I saw there was absurd when the famous arias came with English lines, and they sounded wrong. I have never been convinced that the singing-in-German/French/Italian is really an issue, and that those people still want or require English surtitles despite the audibility.
The movement (Leah Hausman) was generally naturalistic and relaxed: despite the crowded set. Indeed the set was huge – there seemed to be so much crammed on the stage, but it didn’t get in the way.
I would be weary of making too much comment on singing –it all seemed good – but the limitations of microphones and speakers mean there is a limit to how much can be said. No weak links appeared. The star, for me anyway, was Willard White’s Pope Clement VII – in look and sound and character and movement.
ENO Benvenuto Cellini - Willard White (c) ENO/Richard Hubert Smith
The statue, when it comes, is a big one. It makes for a super climax, and is wonderfully executed. The whole thing is a hoot, and is played in the light-hearted manner we might hope.
Overall: rather funnier than much of the Python oeuvre, as it happens.