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Gregory Kunde, John Nelson, Joyce DiDonato, Laurent Naouri, Marc Mauillon, Orchestre National de France, Patrizia Ciofi
Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini - opera (3CD)
Work length 3:07:26
Éric Huchet (tenor), Patrizia Ciofi (soprano), Jean-Francois Lapointe (baritone), Ronan Nédélec (baritone), Renaud Delaigue (bass), Laurent Naouri (bass-baritone), Éric Salha (tenor), Marc Mauillon (baritone), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Gregory Kunde (tenor)
Orchestre National de France, Chœur de Radio France
Recording Venue: 8-13th December 2003. Radio France, Paris.
Thanks to to Hugh Macdonald's brilliant work for the New Berlioz Edition the 1838 Paris Opéra version of Benvenuto Cellini is once again performable; this adds almost half an hour's music to the Colin Davis recording of 1972 (Philips, nla). It's a splendid achievement.
Macdonald's notes are an exemplary guide to the music's youthful genius, and David Cairns's original translation for the Davis recording is augmented by Lisa Hobbs, alongside the French.
Each of the singers responds with a quick understanding to the unexpected, eloquent contours of the recitatives, none more so than Gregory Kunde, who can phrase elegantly Cellini's wistful aria longing for a shepherd's simple life, but also prove an ardent suitor for Teresa, and challenge his adversaries with an heroic, defiant brio. Patrizia Ciofi can sound a little timid for him, and for Teresa's light vivacity, though she sings fluently and gracefully.
Jean-François Lapointe characterises the devious Fieramosca wittily, and joins the the other two cleverly in the brilliant tour de force of their trio. There's a high-spirited performance of Ascanio from Joyce Di Donato that includes witty imitations of the men, and Laurent Naouri vigorously struts his hour on the stage as Teresa's father Balducci.
Berlioz's reckless demands on the orchestra are brilliantly answered. The recording engineers have done extraordinarily well in conveying so much detail even when matters are hurtling full tilt in the Roman Carnival scene and in the final casting of the Perseus. John Nelson steers it all with a sure hand and total conviction.