Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Opera At The Picture Palace: Beatrice et Benedict

Last week The Old Man put on his best pony tail and braces ... well, OK, it is now my daily duty to do his hair as the mystery of constructing such a style is beyond him. Anyhoo... last week we both donned our Sunday Best and set off for the opera at Glyndebourne ( Berlioz's "Beatrice et Benedict") ... courtesy of a live broadcast at a local cinema, so sadly we did have no champagne on the grass.
Now I wasn't too sure I wanted to see this. Frankly, I was frightened by the lengthiness of his "Les Troyens"  and so ... assumed that serious, lengthy works was what Berlioz did. But The Old Man wanted to go, so I gave a Gallic shrug and booked the tickets.
And I am glad that I did. With a story recounting the tricks practiced by friends and family in order to get verbal sparring partners and anti-lovers, Beatrice  and Benedict, to recognise their love and to marry (based on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing"), it turned out - in this production - to be a witty two-acter full of lovely tunes and not frightening at all.

There has been some critical grumbling about the production: a set composed of stacked boxes and monochrome 50's style costume and makeup. But what do you know? I loved it, for sometimes I like a bit of a "stripped-down" production. Done well and consistently, such a thing can focus my attention on the music and performances. And I very much enjoyed Stephanie d'Oustrac with her fine singing and a performance full of suppressed fury as Beatrice. Paul Appleby, as her anti-beau Benedict, is also very good. And I loved the funny (satirical?) musical director Somarone, played with full farce and pointy-toed splendour by Belgian baritone Lionel Lhote.

A surprising and jolly evening. An extra surprise when the screen went blank ten minutes or so before the end of the opera. Apparently this was something to do with satellite time booked.. or not. The tiny audience was duly recompensed. (Yes... down here these things seem to be attended by few... and we is usually all... quite old.)

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