Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra
Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini
Since being booed off the stage at its 1838 premiere, Hector Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini has rattled the opera world, said Kenneth Walton in the Edinburgh Scotsman. “There’s no escaping the inordinate difficulty of this work”: the salty libretto, the “dazzling unpredictability of the music,” and a cumbrous story line that blends the heroic with the comical. While the problematic masterpiece has thrown off other conductors, Sir Colin Davis tackles it with rare astuteness and authority. Benvenuto Cellini recounts the life of the 16th-century Roman artist, commissioned by Pope Clement VII to sculpt a statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra present the story with a “freshness and spontaneity that is as flamboyant and inflated as the man himself.” They give the opera all the glory it deserves, said David Patrick Stearns in The Philadelphia Inquirer. But the work requires a “singular kind of tenor” in the title role, and here Gregory Kunde’s lazy vibrato “doesn’t wear its mileage well.” There is a “slight wobble in his sustained tones,” said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. But Kunde sings with “infectious vitality and melting lyricism.” His slight imperfections hardly affect the “breathless yet commanding” performance of Davis and his exceptional orchestra.