Friday, 2 September 2016

And they all look just the same (Glyndebourne/Béatrice)

Berlioz, Béatrice et Bénédict (Antonello Manacorda cond. LPO)
Chemistry lesson? Glyndebourne Festival 2016, Béatrice et Bénédict. Bénédict (Paul Appleby) and Béatrice (Stéphanie d’Oustrac). Image Glyndebourne/
Visually, this is not the most arresting production. Lots of little and big ticky-tacky boxes. All is grey. The key thing is that this doesn’t get in the way of the music or the drama. These were sometimes very large, and a huge table came out of one; sometimes very very small, carried by two footmen across the stage. It all felt rather forced and unbeautiful. Pelly and De Limburg hadn’t really excelled themselves here, however you cut it. 
A different Héro. Glyndebourne Festival 2016, Béatrice et Bénédict. Héro (Sophie Karthäuser), Béatrice (Stéphanie d’Oustrac), and Chorus. Image Glyndebourne/
The idea, apparently, was that the colouring would come from the music. And certainly all the beauty comes from the music. The exquisite quality of Berlioz was brought out by pace and careful handling from the pit under Manacorda. He may have replaced Ozo, but this was thoughtful music-making.
Vocally Héro (Gillet) was breath-taking), effortless and from a standing start,  Héro’s aria was special singing indeed. The two lovers Béatrice (d’Oustrac) and Bénédict (Appleby) were wonderful and there seemed to be some chemistry between them too, despite the insipid production. Somarone (Lhote) brought much humour as he rehearsed his choir and included Manacorda too. Some of this was very funny, at other times it felt a little forced. Perhaps in a longer run this would have all settled down. 
Glyndebourne Festival 2016, Béatrice et Bénédict. Somarone (Lionel Lhote) and Chorus. Image Glyndebourne/
In some ways, this was a suitable corollary of Norma, in that there was a real bel canto feel about the thing. Berlioz leaves so little drama left, that all you can do is have fun and enjoy the music. Like one of those milk-only cappuccinos pizza express give to children, this was lots of froth and no real shock. But that’s okay, because for a late-summer evening at Glyndebourne, it was actually a rather good fit. Vocally, musically, this was sans reproche. I’d almost certainly go to its revival.
Overall: froth and joy and pretty singing.
Cast and creative team
Conductor Antonello Manacorda
Director Laurent Pelly
Set Designer Barbara de Limburg
Costume Designer Laurent Pelly
Lighting Designer Duane Schuler
Béatrice Stéphanie d’Oustrac
Bénédict Paul Appleby
Héro Anne-Catherine Gillet
Claudio Philippe Sly
Somarone Lionel Lhote
Don Pedro Frédéric Caton
Ursule Katarina Bradić
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus

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