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Beatrice and Benedict (H 138): Overture and Sicilienne

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    The comic opera  Béatrice et Bénédict, composed between 1860 and 1862, was Berlioz’s last major work. It was performed six times in Berlioz’s lifetime under his own direction, four times at Baden-Baden in 1862 and 1863, and twice at Weimar in 1863. Based on a simplified version of the plot of Much ado about nothing it is another example of his life-long admiration for Shakespeare who inspired several of his greatest works (as early as 1833 Berlioz had toyed with the idea of writing an opera on the subject).

    The Overture is one of Berlioz’s most delicate and subtle orchestral pieces, and its allusiveness constantly teases the listener. Unlike Benvenuto Cellini, where the main theme of the overture does not in fact appear in the opera, all the music in the overture to Béatrice et Bénédict is adapted from the opera. Though drawn from no less than six different arias or ensembles, the music is seamlessly fused by Berlioz into a coherent symphonic whole, much as Weber had done in his overtures to Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon.

    The Sicilienne, which reappears twice in the opera, early in the first act then as an entr’acte, uses in a modified form a melody composed by Berlioz in 1819, Le Dépit de la bergère (H 7). The original melody dates thus from his early years in La Côte St André even before he came to Paris in 1821.

    Overture (duration 7'38")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 10.07.2000; revised 25.11.2001)

    Sicilienne (duration 1'43")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 09.05.2000; revised 25.11.2001)

© Michel Austin for all scores and text on this page.

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