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Berlioz;Hector Benvenuto Celli [Import]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Laurent Naouri, Burkhard Fritz, Maija Kovalevska, Valery Gergiev, Kate Aldrich
  • Directors: Philipp Stolzl
  • Format: AC-3, Classical, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen, Import
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: All RegionsAll Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Release Date: Dec 15 2009
  • Run Time: 164 minutes
  • ASIN: B002QXI2OK
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Product Description

Opéra en 2 actes / Burkhard Fritz (Benvenuto Cellini), Maija Kovalevska (Teresa), Laurent Naouri (Fieramosca), Laurent Naouri (Fieramosca), Brindley Sherratt (Giacomo Balducci)... - Wiener Philharmoniker - Valery Gergiev, direction

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An Inauthentic Benvenuto Dec 23 2009
By DDD - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Salzburg Festival has been responsible for three of Berlioz' masterpieces; for that I suppose we must be thankful. The Damnation of Faust is, of course, not an opera. The only staged version I have seen is one from Brussels with Jonas Kaufmann, Susan Graham and Jose Van Damm. It is worth seeing and owning. I have the Troyens and now Cellini. The former is currently available in three sets, but the Cellini has no challenger and is not likely to be contested. This is a pity since the work is clearly a masterpiece, but one that is difficult to bring off. Ideally it should be sung by French trained singers, or those who have an awareness of the style and the importance of the text. The orchestra and chorus should also be French. Berlioz created a unique sound; it deserves to be honored.

Where to start? Updating frequently can add interest and make the auditor rethink his/her ideas about the work in question. In this particular case it is simply silly. Cellini makes his appearance in Act I via a helicopter! The setting is a rooftop (in Rome?) and Balducci has two robots as servants. Oh yes, Ascanio is also a robot. An hommage to Star Wars? Don't ask. If the updating were witty, imaginative, artistic and relevant I would probably sound less churlish. As it stands, however, there is nothing about the staging that I find engaging or likeable. Salzburg became (under Mortier) a showcase for outrageous staging. Sometimes it worked and sometimes not.

All of this would be academic if the singing were world class. According to the notes, Burkhard Fritz has sung Cellini before. I understand that he sings frequently at Bayreuth; no matter, as the voice is not a beautiful one nor one that is used artistically. Maija Kovalevska, Teresa, is one of the second generation of singers from the former Soviet Union. It is generically pretty, without a hint of the singers' ethnic background, e.g., slavic shrillness. Brindley Sherratt, from the UK and a voice I was not familiar with sings Balducci; the role is not a showcase for the singer, but he makes the most of what is really an ungrateful role. The only Frenchman in sight is Laurent Naouri as Fieramosca. The best singing of the evening came from the American Kate Aldrich. Vocally she was stunning; dramatically she was hamstrung by having to be a robot.

Unfortunately Cellini does not have what can be called a performing tradition. It is difficult to sing and doubtless expensive to stage. Early on its history was one of failure for the composer. Add to that the variety of textual differences. Initially it was intended for the Comique and included dialogue. For the Opera recitatives were required. And in Weimar Berlioz shortened the text eliminating "buffo" elements. The first recording (and in my estimation still the best sung) under Colin Davis includeds dialogue and a bevy for French trained singers. Gedda was, of course, not French trained, but was sensitive to the text and the style. The most recent recording on Virgin was conducted by John Nelson a sensitive Berliozan. Why he chose Gregory Kunde is a mystery as the role truly eludes him as it eludes Fritz--although differently. Nelson includes about twenty minutes of music that had never been heard. Since the notes for the DVD (more generous that most) do not make reference to the edition used, on that there are a number of textual difference, the listener is required to be a bit of a musicologist.

In spite of the above criticisms and the "three star" rating I have to recommend the set simply because you are not likely to see another in the near (or distant) future. The Met has never revived its first production even though Troyens has had two investitures. After watching this DVD listen to the first recorded performance to give you an idea as to what could have been.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Performance: 5; Production: 1 Dec 27 2009
By Michael Schulman - Published on
Format: DVD
This is the first DVD of a very entertaining, tuneful, unjustly neglected opera, but if Berlioz & his librettists were to view it with the sound turned off (& without the introductory title & subtitles), they'd have no idea that it's "their work" being presented.

This deliberately outrageous Salzburg Festival production, with its helicopter, robots & a tattooed, rockstarrish Cellini in leather jacket, black T-shirt & jeans, renders the entire onstage enterprise a meaningless melange, with no relevance whatsoever to the historical time, place & characters the opera is about.

That said, the soloists, chorus, conductor & orchestra are all outstanding, performing with brilliance, high spirits & unflagging energy. They, as well as Berlioz & his librettists, the premium-paying Salzburg audience &, of course, we, the DVD-buying opera-loving public, all deserved better than this mindless Eurogarbage.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Do not miss Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz. July 18 2011
By Ultrarunner - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Berlioz wrote about this early opera "a variety of ideas, a vitality and Zest and a brilliance of musical colour as I shall never find again." The opera is full of the colour of Italy,moving very quickly,and is unlike any other music he wrote again.Which contradicts the fact that he said he did not like the modern Italy of the time. The opera is based upon the memoirs of the Renaissance Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Cellini.This first opera was given at the Paris opera in 1838. From the opera comes the famous Roman Carnival overture. Naturally, the opera was not sucessful.It was from his writing that he survived. As a composer once stated"Berlioz died beneath the walls of Troy".His music and operas were misunderstood in France, although he was considered a master of orchestration.He was also the first of the true modern conductors. His work was popular in England, Germany and Russia, not in his homeland of France.

According to the notes ,the opera concerns Cellini's wooing of Teresa, the daughter of the papal treasurer,Balducci,who would prefer Teresa to marry Cellini's rival, the cowardly Fieramosca. When Cellini attempts to abduct Teresa at Carnival time, a fight ensues in which Cellini kills Fieramosca's hired assassin. Cellini disappears,returns under the cover of a monks procession, is arrested, and is pardoned by the Pope only on the hurried completion of commissioned statue of Perseus. You may think how can Berlioz make a opera out of these ideas, and make it funny in parts. He does.

The notes also state" a mix of futurism a la Metropolis, fantasy,a la Batman,juxtaposed in the form of photo montages,also a helicopter, a shark and the winged vechile of the Pope." Metropolis was a German film directed by Fritz Lang in 1927. The first Sci-fi film. The feminoid robot is an evil double of Maria, a pacifist attempting to help the workers. The robot goes from dancing naked in a decadent nightspot and inciting a riot in the film. The robot is Ascanio an assistant to Cellini in this opera. So you can see the relationship between the film and the opera, for the Robot is involved in the carnaval.There is a connection, but she is not evil.

At the beginning, the dark background is a cityscape, an updated version of the city in Metropolis. The two colourful robots helpers to Teresa, are inspired by Metropolis. After the beautiful aria, Teresa wears a light yellow dress, the two robots have blue light shone on them, the same tones as the Yellow and the orange doorway at the side. Blue and Yellow are complimentary colours. The carnaval is a riot of light colours, all blended in with a dark ultramarine background.Every movement and colour is well thought out. The Shark is used as a stage to poke fun at Balducci,Mr money bags. Themes and tunes come thick and fast, with a Rossini zest, but sounding nothing like it. His sound is so unusual because Berlioz couldnt play a piano ,but a guitar. Listen to the choir singing words to the Roman Carnival theme, unbelievable. How can people miss such a performance as this because of this nonsense about modern vs traditional staging. Act one is simply beautiful and full of youthful Zest.

The Pope arrives in Act 11, in pink with his helpers dressed the same, a rock star pope. He wants his Statue. After a period of time he does get it. But in between the workers go on strike and will not cast the statue. Teresa and Ascanio think Cellini has been murdered, but he hasnt. The workers attack Fieramosca and find gold in his pockets to bribe the workers to stop working.Cellini turns up gives his rival the chance to work on the statue,or thrown in the furnace. Naturally, he chooses life. The end is cheerful. Cellini obtains the Popes forgiveness and Teresas hand.
You may notice the robot out of Metropolis, which is apt for the scene with the workers. At one point, the robot has no head, it is singing while sticking out the floor. A imaginative touch. Near the beginning of Act there is a marvellous duo between Ascanio and Teresa and some monks are passing singing in Latin. See the dark background and how the Green costume and Gold robot suit stand out. Act 11 is darker then Act One. In this act you see Berlioz mixing together Masses, symphonic music, arias and lighter music. At that time no one else was doing this. The Furnace scene has to be seen to be believed and heard. Parts of Act One do remind me of Rameau's Les Indes Galantes,by Rameau and conducted by Christie.

The stage director is Phillip Stozl who directed Rienzi. He follows the Libretto. You can just watch the Blu Ray and you get the idea of what is happening. That is his tradmark. He was a film director.The Vienna Philharmonica is conducted by Valery Gergiev extremely fast. Which shows how this helps the choir and singers. You can hear the themes so clearly.Cellini is Burkhard Fritz suited for the part. Teresa is 26 year old Marja Kovalesvska with a beautiful voice, ideal for this part. Fieramosca Laurent Naouri is funny in his role,he has been around for a while. Then we have the Mezzo, Kate Aldrich. I have seen her in a few Blurays and what can one say. The crowd went bonkers when she gave her bow at the end. All the roles are well sung. The scenery and the colours are the best,very sophisicated. This is a Bluray you can love regardless of taste. Who would have believed this came out of the 2007 Salzburg Festival. Bravi.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A brilliantly entertaining take on a rare work by a genius Jan. 13 2011
By A Customer - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I cannot stand so-called Euro-trash productions, but people like to grab hold of that term, and apply it to any modernized opera. This is modernized in the extreme, but with a purpose, and for me, the result is highly entertaining, and turns an imperfect opera (it hurts me to say that, as I think Berlioz is under-rated, and the greatest musical genius of his time) into a great operatic experience.

I must admit, this is my first encounter with this work, but far from my first encounter with Berlioz. I am not going to enter into detail of this opera, as that has been thoroughly done by another reviewer. The only trouble with that review, is that it offers critique on the performance as you would if reviewing, say, Verdi's Don Carlo, and reviewing from such a stance in this case, is totally inappropriate.

Obviously, it was decided to produce this in a way that would keep the audience totally entertained, and not notice the few weaker aspects of the opera. To me, after the initial shock at the very elaborate staging (and quickly realizing, that this was an occasion when a "way-out" reading would succeed), that this is a rare case where extreme, whacky, modernization fully suuceeds. I can imagine others may not find the approach appropriate.

In considering an opera as a whole, I ask "do all the elements work together in unity that leads to a successful production?". For me, the answer is an unequivocal "yes". Berlioz may be confused by it, but I think he would be thrilled as well. The performance could not be in better hands.Kovalevska dazzles with her stunning voice, and personality to match. Fritz as Cellini, is given less of an opportunity to reveal his voice, but when given good opportunities, reveals himself a match for Kovalevska.The other soloists maintain the standard set by the leads. And with the Vienna Phil and Chorus (there are some wonderfful choral sections) under Gergiev, what more could one want? And my answer there, is Blu-ray. Sound and widescren vision present a flawless viewing experience.

This DVD occupies an honoured place in my collection, and I would suggest it hold a sinilar position in the collection of any opera lover who also love's Berlioz. This is the only performance on video media. EDIT I subsequently purchased the Blu-ray release, and was not disappointed.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A treat for the ears; trash for the eyes Dec 22 2009
By Richard - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With the wonders of DVD we are able to see operas which we may never have the chance to see live. Benvenuto Cellini is one of them. This performance fills a hole but is not what we want or need. The performance itself is quite good. The singers are all up to par and their acting skills are also honed. Gergiev's nervous energy keeps the Berlioz score jumping and glowing. He is perfectly on top of Berlioz' tempos and rhythms.
The production is another matter. At its best it is irrelevant: at its worst downright silly. To start with the first act seems to take place on the roof of a building looking out at a city skyscape - maybe New York. Who knows? But then we meet Mr and Mrs 3CPR as Teresa's servants. And as Anna Russell used to say, "You know I'm not making this up." Plus during the show there are various distractions projected on the back wall. Fireworks. And who knows what else.
Then we meet Cellini's apprentice Ascanio. He is R2D2 although much more feminine since this is a trouser role. Toward the end of the opera R2D2 literally loses his head. He has to sing his big aria with his head pushing up from the stage floor and his abandoned body running around desperately trying to reconnect. God knows why. Certainly there is enough action in Cellini for any director to have a ball without going out for the truly ghastly and stupid.
The pope has a role in this opera and here he appears as a lavender wearing drag queen surrounded by his foppish lackeys. Duh! Why! Is the director anti catholic. Is there some idea behind all this trash beyond the desire to be outrageous. And wait till you see the pope mobile.
At the least Regie directors should provide some game plan for their productions so that we have a slight chance of getting their message. That is provided there is one. It is unlikely that we will see another Cellini on DVD so this will have to do. In spite of the production it gave me a lot of pleasure from the singing and acting.
God knows Berlioz doesn't need help from "friends" like these. Today we are beginning to recognize Cellini as one of Berlioz' masterpieces. If you can turn off the background idiocy the genius of Berlioz shines through.