Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini

Hector Berlioz
with Gregory Kunde, Patrizia Ciofi, Joyce DiDonato, Laurent Naouri, Renaud Delaigue
Orchestre National de France
Chœur de Radio France
John Nelson, Conductor

This recording presents–almost–Berlioz’s original thoughts on this very complicated opera (which went through more than a dozen versions, with additions and subtractions, in the composer’s lifetime), although conductor John Nelson also adds an aria or two Berlioz later added, making it somewhat different from the version recorded by Philips under Sir Colin Davis a little over 30 years ago. If I had to choose one of these two superb performances, it would be this: the opera’s odd rhythms are more strongly underlined by Nelson, the whole work seems more lively, and the comic moments are genuinely funny. And the singing is superb, with Patrizia Ciofi a simply great, light-toned Teresa, Gregory Kunde tackling the title role and singing as impressively as Gedda did for Davis, and Joyce di Donato singing Ascanio’s music as well as you’ll ever hear it. The darker-voiced roles are equally well taken, with Laurent Naouri’s Balducci particularly vivid. The orchestral playing, choral singing, and ensemble work and sonics are first rate. This is a superb recording, presenting Berlioz’s odd masterwork brilliantly. –Robert Levine

Mezzo Joyce DiDonato sings Ascanio with an enthusiasm that ideally characterizes Cellini's apprentice: she nearly dominates every scene she's in.

Classics Today

Album info

Release date: January 11, 2005
Number of Discs: 3
Format: Box set
Label: Virgin Classics
ASIN: B00030FJA8