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Hector Berlioz.

Hector Berlioz. Benvenuto Cellini. Edited by Hugh Macdonald. (New Edition of the Complete Works, Ia-c.) Kassel: B[ddot{a}]renreiter, c1994-96. [Vol. la (1994): Acte I--Premier Tableau. Index to the New Berlioz Edition, p. viii-ix; gen. pref., foreword, acknowledgments, directions for using the edition in Eng., Fr., Ger., p. x-li; score, 338 p. Vol. lb (1994): Acte I-Deuxi[grave{e}]eme Tableau. Score, p. 339-727. Vol. Ic (1996): Acte II- Troisi[greave{e}]me Tableau, Quatri[greave{e}]me Tableau. Score, p. 729-1201. Cloth. B[ddot{a}]renreiter 5441a-c. DM 940 (v. la+b); DM 560 (v. lc). Critical notes and commentary (vol. id, Barenreiter 5441d) due for publication in 2000-2001.]

Hector Berlioz. Benvenuto Cellini. Vocal score based on the urtext of the New Berlioz Edition by Eike Wernhard and Martin Schelhaas. Kassel: B[ddot{a}]renreiter, c1999. (Guide for using the edition in Eng., Ger., Fr., p. iii-v; table of contents (Paris and Weimar versions), p. vii-ix; ensemble, p. x-xii, vocal score, 564p. with Eng. and Ger. libretto in pocket (92 p.). Cloth. ISMN M-006-50491-6; BA 5441a. DM 128.]

Hector Berlioz's rarely pertormed Benvenuto Cellini is one of the most daring and forward-looking operas of its time. The appearance of the full score in the New Edition of the Complete Works (known as the New Berlioz Edition, or NEE) rounds out the publication of the composer's three operas (the two others being Les Troyens [vols. 2a-2c] and Beatrice et Benedict [vol. 3]). The edition of Benvenuto Cellini comprises four volumes, three presenting the music and a fourth (still to appear) comprising references to source materials, critical notes on the edition, a list of readings, dialogues proposed in 1856 for an opera comique version, and other material. B[ddot{a}]renreiter's one-volume corresponding vocal score of Benvenuto Cellini appeared in 1999, with the English and German translations of the libretto in a separate laid-in booklet.

The division of the opera into acts, tableaux, scenes, and numbers is confusing: Berlioz composed Benvenuto Cellini in two acts (each subdivided into two tableaux), but for the version given in Weimar, the opera was divided into three acts (act 1: tableau 1; act 2: tableau 2; and act 3: tableaux 3 and 4 combined). Editor Hugh Macdonald has established a workable solution to this dilemma, and the numbers 1-33 are Macdonald's editorial addition.

Of Berlioz's three finished operas and two incomplete stage works (Les francs-judges and La nonne sanglante), Benvenuto Cellini has the most complicated history of composition and revisions. It is impossible to recount all of the details here, but some history will help explain the three versions on which the NBE score is based.

Shortly after Berlioz's return from his Prix de Rome year in Italy, he read the memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini, which clearly caught his imagination; he probably identified closely with the Renaissance sculptor, in whose struggles with Florentine authorities he saw reflected his own struggle with the "accepted" music world of Paris. His desire at that time to compose an opera inspired the decision to write an op[acute{e}]ra comique based on Cellini's life. He turned to L[acute{e}]on de Wailly to write the libretto, who in turn chose Auguste Barbier to collaborate with him. Evidence points to a role played by Alfred de Vigny in the early planning of the opera, but his name does not appear on any of the extant scores or librettos. When Berlioz presented the libretto to the Op[acute{e}]ra-Comique in 1834, the work was rejected.

Berlioz revised Benvenuto Cellini by changing the spoken dialogue into recitative for submission to the Op[acute{e}]ra, where it was accepted. The premiere took place on 10 September 1838, with Francois Antoine Habeneck conducting. As usual, the Parisian music factions were at war, and the opera was not a success, dropped from the repertory after four "full" and three partial performances.

Since little remains of the original op[acute{e}]ra comique version, it is the version first presented at the Op[acute{e}]ra that we must regard as the "earliest," called Paris 1 in the NBE. During the rehearsals and performances in 1838, a number of changes were made--the Paris censors, for example, forced Berlioz to remove the character of Pope Clement VII from the opera, to be replaced by Cardinal Salviati. (The NBE score retains the part of the Pope.) These changes (listed by Macdonald in the introduction) were gathered into a conductor's score, and became what the NBE calls Paris 2.

Not much more happened with Benvenuto Cellini until 1851, when Franz Liszt asked Berlioz to revise the work for performance in Weimar. In the years between 1839 and 1851, Paris audiences had heard excerpts and arias in concerts, and Berlioz used music from the opera for two other pieces, adapting the music from Teresa's Romance (no. 3a, replaced in Paris 2 and Weimar by her Cavatine, no. 3b) as the R[hat{e}]verie et caprice for violin and orchestra (published in 1841), and in 1843-44 composing the overture Le carnaval romain from music used in tableau 2 and the trio in tableau 1 (no. 4). This overture remains today one of Berlioz's best-known works, although few music lovers realize that it has any connection with Benvenuto Cellini.

While working with Liszt to revitalize the work, Berlioz complained about the "ravages" that the Op[acute{e}]ra had forced him to make, writing that, although he had not looked at it in thirteen years, he had "cleaned up the score, tied it back together, restored it before sending it" (letter to Auguste Morel, 10 February 1852, in Correspondance g[acute{e}]n[acute{e}]rale, vol. 4, 1851-1855 [Paris: Flammarion, 1983], 113). At Liszt's and Hans von B[ddot{u}]low's advice, Berlioz made extensive cuts and other alterations, especially to shorten the work and to reduce its burlesque element. Liszt conducted seven performances in Weimar, three in the spring (while Berlioz had conducting engagements in London and could not attend), and four more in November, as part of a "Berlioz Week" attended by the composer. Plans for an 1853 revival were abandoned, but Liszt did revive Benvenuto Cellini for two more performances in Weimar in 1856.

Negotiations with Covent Garden in London resulted in a production there on 25 June 1853; Berlioz had the libretto translated into Italian, the language most often used at Covent Garden, and once again he made some revisions. Queen Victoria attended, along with Prince Albert and King George V of Hanover and his queen. Although Berlioz conducted and was pleased with the performance, much of Benvenuto Cellini-caught in the rivalry between supporters and opponents of Italian opera--was hissed, and Berlioz withdrew it after one performance.

There were plans for a production in 1856 at the Th[acute{e}][hat{a}]tre-Lyrique in Paris under the new conductor there, L[acute{e}]on Carvalho (who would conduct the premiere of Berlioz's Les Troyens there seven years later). Parts of the libretto were reworked to become spoken dialogue, but the production was delayed and the project then abandoned.

Other than a few productions in Germany and a revival for the opening of the Th[acute{e}][hat{a}]tre des Champs-Elys[acute{e}]es in Paris in 1913, Benvenuto Cellini received little attention for nearly a hundred years after Berlioz's death in 1869; it was in 1966 that a production took place in London, with much of the music from the Paris version restored. John Pritchard conducted, and the production was repeated in 1969; this led to the Philips recording of the opera, conducted by Sir Colin Davis (Philips 6500 494 (6707 019], in 1972; reissued on Philips CD 416 955-2 in 1987 and recently with B[acute{e}]atrice et B[acute{e}]n[acute{e}]dict and Les Troyens as The Complete Operas on Philips 456 387-2). Davis uses music from the three versions, mainly Paris 2, with some spoken dialogue.

Publication of the score of Benvenuto Cellini has a checkered history at best. Schlesinger published excerpts in vocal score at the time of the Paris premiere, and Litolff issued a vocal score in 1856 based on the Weimar version. Berlioz himself made the piano reduction, incorporating material from the Schlesinger reduction and using a four-hand arrangement of the overture by von B[ddot{u}]low. The Paris publisher Choudens produced a vocal score in 1863 and a full score in 1886, both using the Weimar version (and reprinted by Kalmus in 1970). Macdonald's edition of the score, therefore, is the first that includes the Paris versions. (For details of these publications, see Cecil Hopkinson, A Bibliography of the Musical and Literary Works of Hector Berlioz, 2d ed. [Tunbridge Wells: R. MacNutt, 1980], 43-44, 154-58, 166; and D. Kern Holoman, Catalogue of the Works of Hector Berlioz, vol. 25 of NBE [Kassel: B[ddot{a}]renreiter, 1987], 177-80.)

So, what does an editor do with three different versions of an opera that have some parts in common (though with changes), many parts different, both spoken dialogue and recitatives, different characters in different versions, and other anomalies? Benvenuto Cellini is not a work that has entered the repertory in one standard version with certain variants, or even an opera (like George Bizet's Carmen) that has two accepted versions, one with dialogue and one with recitatives; rather, it remains a work unknown to most of the opera-going world. And although Berlioz wrote that he was satisfied with the Weimar version, we cannot know if he made this statement with the same resignation expressed when he later "accepted" the first-performance version of Les Troyens--with only part of it presented--under the title Les Troyens [grave{a}] Carthage. His true feelings about this partial version came out later, when he wrote: "Oh, my noble Cassandra [who did not appear in the shortened version], ... I must then resign my self: I shall never hear you" (The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz, trans. and ed. David Cairns [London: Gollanz, 1969], 490).

The Macdonald-B[ddot{a}]renreiter solution is to put all three versions of Benvenuto Cellini into one score, marking each passage with the version to which it belongs. Where there are two or three versions of a passage, they are printed consecutively, and clearly marked Paris 1, Paris 2, and/or Weimar. (Occasionally Paris 1 has been divided into Paris la, 1b, etc.; this happens mainly where changes were made during the Paris rehearsals and performances.) In order to avoid the nightmare of keeping track of bar numbers through the different versions, Macdonald consecutively numbers every bar printed, regardless of whether two versions are given or only one; passages are clearly marked to indicate where they continue or whence they come. In act 1, tableau 1, no. 4 (beginning on p. 213), for example, the three versions are the same through m. 45; the Paris 1 version continues from m. 46 to m. 66; Paris 2 and Weimar jump from the end of m. 45 to m. 67, where they continue through m. 89. Paris 1 jumps from the end of m. 66 to m. 90, where all three versions are again the same, with Paris 2 and Weimar continuing directly from the end of m. 89.

There are more than structural changes that can be shown by this method. Sometimes Berlioz significantly alters the range of the vocal lines, while at others he adds or deletes passages for the characters. Another change may be in instrumentation. In these cases, if the variations are not so large as to require alternate versions, the changes are written into the score, either on an inserted staff line or with an indication of the version to which the variant belongs. Macdonald notes that other small changes are listed only in the critical volume (ld)--we will therefore have to await publication of this volume to learn the full story.

Macdonald's introduction (given in English, French, and German) covers a multitude of details about Benvenuto Cellini, including the origins of the opera; libretto; composition; first revisions; Paris performances; later performances (including concert extracts and arias); the Weimar revisions; the three versions; publication; instrumentation; metronome markings; division into acts, scenes, and numbers; and a short essay on "Berlioz as Self-Critic." A brief section follows explaining the markings of the different versions in the score.

The score itself is edited and presented in the careful manner we have come to expect from the NBE. Macdonald follows the usual editorial procedures, listed in the front of the first volume (beaming the notes in vocal lines--even where there are syllable changes, text in French only, and so on). And the score is printed in an open and uncramped layout.

The vocal score, published by B[tilde{a}]renreiter in 1999, is somewhat less successful in its presentation. Like the orchestral score, the text is only in French. Here the English and German librettos are given in a booklet laid in the back of the volume. This booklet, ninety-two pages in length with no stiffening cover, is flimsy at best, and the single plastic corner designed to hold it to the back cover had already come apart in my copy--it does not look large enough to hold the insert. Libraries will have to come up with their own solutions to preserve the booklet.

With a little more editorial care--not in the music itself, but in the critical apparatus (or lack of it) and in the presentation of the volume--the vocal score could have moved from good to excellent. The reduction is based on the NBE full score, and therefore the bar numbers correspond. The entire introduction from the full score is omitted, however, with the exception of the few paragraphs explaining how the Paris 1, Paris 2, and Weimar versions are indicated in the score. The versions are marked the same in the full score and the vocal score, and this explanation (in English, German, and French) is taken (with the exception of references to the critical notes in the NBE, and a typographical error that crept into the English version) from the introduction to the full score. The editors have added a sentence about the change in the number of acts in the Weimar version. But there is not a single word about the different versions--what they are, how they came about, how they relate to each other, and so on. The user who looks at the vocal score after reading the introduction to the NBE score will have a fighting chance of coping, but the unwary person who sits down with the vocal score at a piano, with the recording, or just by itself will be lost. The only clue to the history of the versions occurs at the bottom of the first page of the English libretto, where a few sentences are repeated from Macdonald's introduction (la: xix). There is a reference to the explanation of the signs in the vocal score. This brief explanation also appears in German on the opening page of the German libretto, but it is not included as a note to the score itself (and therefore is lacking in French).

There are other minor problems in the vocal score as well, mostly in the translations of some of the stage directions and performance markings given at the bottom of the relevant page of the vocal score (although not translated in the full score). Occasionally the translations appear at the bottom of a page that no longer includes the music (e.g., p. 388; it should be on p. 387) or where the note in French has been omitted from the vocal score (e.g., p. 221, m. 257; compare with NBE lb, 505). And in a few places the English and German translations are misleading or not as helpful as they could be--as, for example, on p. 185, where someone looking for a translation of the tempo marking there, m[hat{e}]me mouvement (m[hat{e}]me dur[acute{e}]e dans chacune de ces mesures C que dans les pr[acute{e}]c[acute{e}]dentes [grave{a}]6 8), finds only "genauso schnell/same speed."

In spite of its shortcomings, and though the presentation could have been much better, the vocal score is a major contribution to the dissemination of the various versions of Benvenuto Cellini, but only in conjunction with the full score. More careful editing and the inclusion of at least part of the introduction from the NBE would have made this vocal score more usable on its own.

Finally, after we have briefly traced the versions and variations and examined the score, what answer can we give to the student or music lover who asks, "Can we now sit down with the score and listen to the recording?" The answer is, unfortunately, "No," at least not without a lot of work beforehand. The unwary listener will be confused even as early as the overture, of which two versions are included in both scores. As Macdonald explains in the introduction to the NBE score, and as a note at the beginning of the libretto inserted in the vocal score, "To read any one version in isolation, therefore, it will be necessary to close off or jump intermediate pages which belong to the other versions" (la, xix). The Davis recording uses material from all the versions, and Macdonald is acknowledged for his help in the preparation of the recording's score. David Cairns, in the commentary included with the recording (at least the old LP format), includes a chart describing what was recorded, using Macdonald's system o f thirty-three numbers in the opera, but otherwise using "sc[grave{e}]nes" to identify its various sections. A single glance at the table of contents in the NBE shows how tricky this can be. Though the chart is clear, careful work must still be done to determine which music from the NBE score is actually recorded.

Berlioz's first opera is exuberant in its orchestral color, satirical elements, and painting of the Mardi Gras carnival. The difficulty of its rhythmic complexities and the demands on both singers and instrumentalists make Benvenuto Cellini one of the more challenging operas to produce. When the difficulty of performance is added to the lack of a definitive version (and the unavailability of the Paris versions before the publication of the NBE score), it is little wonder that the opera has seldom been performed. This important addition to the New Edition of the Complete Works of Berlioz finally provides the means to study Benvenuto Cellini carefully and to compare the virtues of the different versions. The publication of the volume with the critical matter (in 2001?) will certainly help. Macdonald's edition also gives opera producers and performers the opportunity to present the work in a version they feel will best convey the wishes of the composer to today's and tomorrow's audiences.
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Title Annotation:Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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