|Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict, Seattle Opera, directed by John Langs|
Langs has put the Shakespeare back into the comedy and replaced Berlioz’s French libretto with, as well as inserting a little more of, the Bard’s witty all English text to create a neatly padded new look, acute accents erased. There’s also some added music in the mix from La damnation de Faust, Benvenuto Cellini and L’enfance du Christ, all Berlioz and all very smoothly spliced with lyrics adapted by Jonathan Dean. In all, its pacy two acts cames in at a little over two and a half hours, including interval and it packs a punch with its stand-off of love and trickery to fuse it.
The refined and sumptuous sounding Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s superbly played bobbing and darting overture set the foundations for a musical journey that conductor Ludovic Morlot guided with spirited command. The strings hummed in beautiful textures and the humble piccolo got to frolic high and proudly above the soundscape in this penultimate and secure run.
|Andrew Owens as Benedict and Hanna Hipp as Beatrice|
Both the inflammatory and irresistible chemistry between young Beatrice and the Sicilian officer Benedict was aglow in the well-acted and strongly sung pair, Hanna Hipp and Andrew Owens (who alternated with Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader). Their opening duet didn’t quite coalesce into a magic union - neither were their sentiments, of course, at this stage - but from hereon, Hipp’s gleamingly topped luscious soprano and Owens’ warm ringing tenor made an impressionable mark both individually and together. Not that the duet that comes with the finale, “This love is like a flame”, is as attractive for voice as its music is for orchestra which you hear so buoyantly in the overture. You rather expect something more bombastic.
|Shelly Traverse, Craig Verm, Daniel Sumegi and Marvin Grays|
Giving Maestro Morlot coercive tips in musical direction, and in his element, Kevin Burdette’s wild comic antics and impressively steered robust baritone came together marvellously as the music master Somarone. The scheming, darker characters of the plot that pop up here and there were an unseemly duo rendered by Brandon O’Neill’s dastardly Don Juan and Avery Clark’s chipper Borachio. Rich and gracefully sounding contralto Avery Amereau also gives impact in the smaller role as Hero’s lady-in-waiting, Ursule alongside Christine Marie Brown’s Margaret, Chip Sherman's Messenger/Friar and the Seattle Opera Chorus filling the town and the auditorium with wonderful singing life. Miked dialogue was warmly delivered and balanced comfortably with unamplified singing.
As an inventive part of the Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare Festival, Berlioz sits front seat with the Bard in this fresh and lively work. It's over for now but expect it to pop up again.
Beatrice and Benedict
Until 10th March, 2018
Production Photos: Jacob Lucas