Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Berlioz to the North

Seattle Opera's 2017-18 season includes Beatrice et Benedict! Except that it's going to be in English (wut?). Details:
“Beatrice & Benedict,” by Hector Berlioz, opening Feb. 24, 2018: This is a locally created collaborative premiere that builds on the Berlioz framework, adding text straight from “Much Ado About Nothing.” ACT artistic director John Langs will be the stage director; Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot will conduct. To be performed in English, it will kick off the citywide “Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare” programming.
Nothing on their web site yet; the announcement is today. I'm betting that the Seattle Times forgot the meaning of "embargoed press release" and published a few hours early. H/T Opera Tattler for the Seattle Times link!

UPDATE: The Seattle Opera web site has been updated now. Here's the page for Beatrice. In other news, the RETNA/Zambello Aida production heads north for Seattle's 2017-18 season as well, complete with Brian Jagde and Leah Crocetto.


Anonymous said...

Performing B&B in English is probably the right thing to do. Mind you, the only live performance of it I have seen is the completely inadequate one that former Berkeley Opera put on some years ago at the Julia Morgan Theater (you cannot perform this, or any Berlioz, with a scratch orchestra). But I have listened to the John Nelson recording (originally on Erato, with all the dialog but separate speaking and singing casts), and also watched last summer's Glyndebourne webcast; and I think the book has some serious problems that can best be addressed for Anglophone audiences in translation.

The issue is really that Berlioz condensed Much Ado About Nothing too much. A lot of the banter between Beatrice and Benedict (always the best-loved part of the play) has been dropped, and so have the details of the practical jokes that Claudio and Hero use to trick them into falling in love. So the initial situation is not very well established, and the resolution is inadequately motivated. I think Berlioz didn't quite understand how Shakespeare's dialog plays in front of an audience, or he wouldn't have omitted so many of those famous lines ("I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you").

The solution is to augment the dialog with more Shakespeare, and once you start doing that you end up wanting to replace big chunks of Berlioz's condensation with the original. There are then three possibilities: translate the whole thing into English, translate more of Shakespeare into French, or use a macaronic text with sung French and spoken English.

The Glyndebourne performances actually did the second of these: in the final scene, new French text from the play was added to clarify Claudio and Hero's plotting. An English version by Colin Graham, used at St Louis and Santa Fe, has been successful -- it evidently contains a pretty complete Shakespeare-izing of the dialog. I kind of hope that's the text that Seattle uses, since reviews I've read make it sound great.

Lisa Hirsch said...

(Yes, trying to catch up on blog comments I never replied to!)

That all makes sense! And I need to figure out when I am going to see this. I think I figured out the ONE date that will work for me....