Production from 2016
Co-production La Monnaie / De Munt, Théâtre du Capitole Toulouse
Richard Brunel on Béatrice et Bénédict
What does the story of Béatrice et Bénédict describe? Relief following a difficult period. There is still mourning, which has left its traces both in people’s hearts and in the black clothing worn to commemorate the dead. What I find interesting is the melancholy, the traces of destruction and death, as well as the lust for life that re-emerges when the anguish of death has passed. Against this background, in which the action of Béatrice et Bénédict takes place, the urgency of marriage is like a symptom of this lust for life; pleasure seems to be an ephemeral interlude preceding a new departure, and the war of the sexes a substitute for the wars of armies. In its discontinuity, this opera is like a series of tableaux, looking at marriage, the masculine, and the feminine, from a succession of angles. By connecting all these stories, that of Claudio and Héro, that of Béatrice and Bénédict, and that of Somarone, we set out to create a tapestry woven of manipulation and desire and thereby to question whether, on the one hand, the stereotypes in question and, on the other, the various marriages are really so self-evident. We take as our starting point the question: and what if the marriages didn’t take place?
The libretto of Béatrice et Bénédict has often been criticised for the weakness of its plot. Everything is clear in advance: there are no surprises, the situations are very stereotypical, and the dialogue is often rather feeble. But there are elements that remain unexplored and mysterious. We took the mysteries and weaknesses of the libretto as our starting point and came up with an internal solution to them, sometimes by drawing on Shakespeare’s text. We tell a story that doesn’t entirely follow Berlioz, but doesn’t exactly reproduce Shakespeare either. That way, we offer a resolution of the libretto’s inconsistencies, developing its most Shakespearean aspects and fleshing out its characters. In making those changes, we also had to ensure that there would not be too much time between the musical passages and to make sure that there is a necessity to the transition from the spoken word to singing. We have changed the order of some arias in order to give them new point and we have eliminated the interval so that the action will be experienced in one sequence.
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