Berlioz: Complete Operas

A true man of the theatre, Berlioz had scant luck with opera. Benvenuto Cellini was a fiasco at the Paris Opera in 1838, understandable given its complexity and the pace of events over long stretches--film opera a century before its time. Yet it's exhilarating stuff--the scenes of the Roman carnival (you'll recognise the themes) and the emergence of the statue are what opera was made for. Davis gets the right feel, and Nicolai Gedda is superlative in the title role. The Trojans fulfilled Berlioz's ambition for an opera based on classical legend: only part of it was performed in his lifetime and, at four hours, it's still a rarity today. Davis leads from the front in his powerful interpretation, Josephine Veasey and Jon Vickers persuasive as the star-crossed lovers Dido and Aeneas. Beatrice and Benedict was a success, ironically as it was Berlioz's last major work before he effectively threw in the towel. 150 years on, and you can hear why this music only latterly came into own--and why this budget-price set will give unlimited enjoyment. --Richard Whitehouse

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