Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini
Virgin Classics presents a musical and editorial feat as the highlight of the CD activities surrounding the Berlioz Year 2003: the world premiere recording of the complete, unabridged version of Berlioz's grandiose opera BENVENUTO CELLINI in the original "Paris version" of 1838. This artist's drama about the legendary Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini experienced a fiasco at its Paris premiere because Berlioz's exuberant musical imagination far overtaxed the audience of his time. It was only the version of 1852, considerably shortened on the advice of Franz Liszt, that successfully passed over the opera stages of the world as the "Weimar version". The Virgin Classics recording now released, made in parallel with the acclaimed concert performances in Paris in the Berlioz Year 2003 under the direction of Berlioz specialist John Nelson, presents for the first time hitherto unknown parts of the score which Berlioz himself deleted before the Paris premiere, i.e. was never able to hear himself. Even the only commercial recording to date with Nicolai Gedda and Colin Davis (Philips, 1976) has not included this original version, which still contains all the ideas of Berlioz's creative genius. This is a true world premiere recording of a masterpiece of French operatic romanticism, with a top-class cast of singers: with the tenor Gregory Kunde, who has been most successful in Rossini roles, and Patricia Ciofi, star soprano of several Virgin Classics productions from Vivaldi to Donizetti. By the way: opera lovers who have never heard BENVENUTO CELLINI will nevertheless recognise some of the music: Berlioz incorporated music from one of the opera's highlights, the great turbulent carnival scene, into his most famous overture "Le Carnaval romain" (Roman Carnival).