Benvenuto Cellini (opera)

Benvenuto Cellini (opera)

"Benvenuto Cellini " is an opera in two acts [Originally, opera in Paris version had two acts, but in the revised, Weimer version - three, and in contemporary productions the first two acts of that version are merged together without intermission into one long act I] with music by Hector Berlioz and libretto by Léon de Wailly and Auguste Barbier. It was the first of Berlioz's three operas. The story is loosely based on the memoirs of the Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. The opera is technically very challenging [cite journal | url= | last=Kunde | first=Gregory and Linda Wojciechowski Kunde | title="Benvenuto Cellini" in Zurich: A Rehearsal Diary | journal=The Opera Quarterly | volume=19 | issue=3 | pages=417–426 | date=2003 | accessdate=2008-05-10 | doi=10.1093/oq/19.3.417] and rarely performed, [cite news | url=,,1021697,00.html | title=Benvenuto Cellini: Prom 39, Royal Albert Hall, London (2003) | work=The Guardian | author=Andrew Clements | date=2003-08-19 | accessdate=2007-06-08] [cite news | url= | title=Berlioz's "Cellini" | publisher="New York Times" | author=Donal Henehan | date=1983-05-10 | accessdate=2007-09-07] [cite news | url= | title=Opera Review: "Benvenuto Cellini at the Met" | publisher="NYT" | author=Anthony Tommasini | date= 2003-12-06 | accessdate=2008-05-10] and is not part of the standard operatic repertoire. However, the overture to the opera features in symphony orchestra programs, as well as the concert overture "Le carnaval romain" that Berlioz composed from material in the opera.


In 1834, Berlioz, de Wailly and Barbier devised a libretto in the "opéra comique" style, with spoken dialogue. However, the Paris Opéra-Comique company rejected it. The story was then reworked into more "conventional" opera format, without spoken dialogue. With actual composition starting in 1836, The opera was first performed in Paris at the Paris Opéra on September 10, 1838, with Gilbert Duprez in the title-role (conductor: François Antoine Habeneck). At its premiere, the audience, disturbed by the radical new opera, rioted, musicians branded the work as impossible to play. [On more detailed inside story of that opera see the Hector Berlioz Website article, "Benvenuto Cellini" by Christian Wasselin at [] ]

In 1851, Franz Liszt offered to revive the opera in a new production (and version) in Weimar, and suggested changes to the score to Berlioz. This version was performed in Weimar in 1852, and also in London in 1853. However, the London reception was poor. The final performances of the opera in Berlioz's lifetime were in Weimar in 1856.

In 1856, the vocal score of the Weimar edition was published in Germany. A French publication of the Weimar version vocal score appeared in 1863 from Choudens. Thomasin La May has examined the Weimar edition of the opera. [cite journal | url= | last=La May | first=Thomasin K. | title=A New Look at the Weimar Versions of Berlioz's "Benvenuto Cellini" | journal=The Musical Quarterly | volume=LXV | issue=4 | pages=559–572 | date=1979 | accessdate=2008-05-10 | doi=10.1093/mq/LXV.4.559] In 1996, a critical edition of the opera, edited by Hugh Macdonald, was published by Bärenreiter Verlag, as part of the "New Berlioz Edition". [cite journal | url= | last=Goldberg | first=Louise | title=Review of Hector Berlioz, "Benvenuto Cellini" (New Edition, Bärenreiter) and Vocal score based on urtext of the New Edition | journal=Notes | volume=56 | issue=4 | pages=1032–1036 | date=June 2000 | accessdate=2008-05-10] The critical edition takes into account all of the available editions:
* the original version as Berlioz composed it, before changes demanded by the censors
* the version premiered in Paris, with the changes after evaluation by the censors
* the Weimar edition, after the changes suggested by Liszt.

In contemporary times, the Royal Opera House in London staged the work in on December 15, 1966, followed by Italian premiere in Naples in 1967.

The first United States production was by the Opera Company of Boston in 1975, under the direction of Sarah Caldwell and with Jon Vickers in the title role. The first performance of the work at the Metropolitan Opera took place on December 4, 2003, with James Levine conducting and stage direction from Andrei Şerban, and Marcello Giordani singing the role of Cellini. [cite news | url= | title=A Goldsmith's Tale, Told Larger Than Life | publisher="New York Times" | author=Anthony Tommasini | date=2003-12-06 | accessdate=2007-09-07] [cite news | url= | title=Benvenuto Cellini at the Met | publisher=Andante magazine | author=David P. Stearns | date=December 2003 | accessdate=2008-05-26]

In 2007 "Benvenuto Cellini" was staged at Salzburg Festival, Valery Gergiev conducting [cite news | url= | title=Benvenuto Cellini at Salzburg Festival | publisher=Boulezian | author=Mark Berry | date=2007-08-16 | accessdate=2008-05-26]

Another notable interpreter of the title role is John Duykers.

Ora Frishberg Saloman has discussed in detail the opera's characterisation of the historical figure of Cellini. [cite journal | url= | last=Saloman | first=Ora Frishberg | title=Literary and Musical Aspects of the Hero's "Romance" in Berlioz's "Benvenuto Cellini" | journal=The Opera Quarterly | volume=19 | issue=3 | pages=401–416 | date=2003 | accessdate=2008-05-10 | doi=10.1093/oq/19.3.401]



:Time: 1532:Place: Rome, during Carnival, over Shrove Monday, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday.

Act 1

"Tableau 1 (Balducci's residence)"

Balducci has been summoned to a meeting with Pope Clement VII concerning the Pope's commission of a bronze statue of Perseus from the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. Balducci would have preferred Fieramosca as the chosen sculptor, and also because he hopes to marry his daughter Teresa to Fieramosca. But Teresa is smitten with Cellini. Before Balducci goes to his meeting with the Pope, Cellini and other Carnival celebrators come on the scene, and pelt Balducci with "fausses dragées" (flour pellets) that make Balducci look "like a leopard". He can't clean himself off, however, so he continues to his meeting.

A bouquet of flowers comes through the window and lands at Teresa's feet. Attached is a note from Cellini saying that he is coming up. He does so, and explains his plan to take her away from her father so that they can live together. He and his assistant Ascanio will be disguised as monks, and will take her from her father during the Mardi Gras celebrations, when the Castel Sant'Angelo cannon is sounded to mark the end of Carnival. Unbeknownst to them both, Fieramosca has also entered the room, and tries to eavesdrop on them. He does not hear all the information on the first rendition, but he does on the second.

Upon hearing Balducci approach, Fieramosca hides in Teresa's bedroom, and Cellini hides behind the main room door. To distract her father, Teresa invents a story about a noise in her bedroom. Balducci goes into her bedroom, and Cellini escapes in the meantime. To Teresa's surprise, Balducci produces Fieramosca from the bedroom. He and Teresa call on the servants and neighbors to take Fieramosca and dump him outside in the fountain, but Fieramosca breaks free of the crowd.

"Tableau 2 (Piazza Colonna)"

Cellini, his apprentices and friends sing the praises of being goldsmiths. Bernardino asks for more wine, but the innkeeper demands settlement of their tab. Ascanio then appears with the Pope's advance payment for the Perseus statue, but also with a warning that the casting of the statue must occur the next day. The amount of money in the advance is less than expected, which gives new impetus to the plan to mock Balducci at Cassandro's booth that night.

Fieramosca has also overheard this plan, and confides to his friend Pompeo. Pompeo suggests that they too disguise themselves as monks and abduct Teresa themselves.

People gather in the piazza. A crowd assembles at Cassandro's booth, where "the pantomime-opera of King Midas or The Ass's Ears" is unfurled. Balducci and Teresa enter, soon after Cellini and Ascanio dressed as monks, and then Fieramosca and Pompeo similarly disguised. In the pantomime, Harlequin and Pierrot compete for the attention of King Midas, who is attired to look like Balducci. At this, the real Balducci approaches the stage, leaving Teresa alone. Both sets of "friars" then approach Teresa, to her confusion. The four friars begin to battle by sword, and in the struggle, Cellini fatally stabs Pompeo. The crowd becomes silent, and Cellini is arrested for murder. As he is about to be taken away, the three cannon shots from Castel Sant'Angelo are heard, indicating the end of Carnival and the start of Lent. All of the lights in the piazza are extinguished. During the darkness and resulting confusion, Cellini escapes his captors and Ascanio and Teresa go off. Fieramosca is then mistakenly arrested in Cellini's place.

Act 2

"Tableau 1 (Ash Wednesday, Cellini's studio)"

Ascanio and Teresa wait for Cellini in his studio. When a procession of friars passes by, they join in the prayer. Cellini then enters, still in monk's disguise, and recounts his escape. Because he is now wanted for murder, he plans to escape Florence with Teresa, but Ascanio reminds him of his obligation to cast the statue. Ascanio goes off to find a horse. Balducci and Fieramosca then appear. Balducci denounces Cellini as a murderer and then promises Teresa to Fieramosca in marriage.

The Pope then appears to check on the progress of the statue. Cellini makes excuses, but the Pope dismisses them and decides that he will give the commission to another sculptor. Cellini then threatens to destroy the mould, and when the Pope's guards approach him, he raises his hammer. The Pope then makes Cellini an offer: if Cellini can cast the statue that evening, he will forgive Cellini's crimes and let him marry Teresa. But if Cellini fails, he will be hanged.

"Tableau 2 (Ash Wednesday, evening, Cellini's foundry)"

After an aria from Ascanio, Cellini comes on stage and muses on the quiet life of a shepherd. The workmen are at their labours and sing a sea-shanty, which Cellini sees as a bad omen. Ascanio and Cellini encourage the goldsmiths to continue their work. Fieramosca then arrives with two henchmen and challenges Cellini to a duel. Cellini accepts and asks to settle it on the spot, but Fieramosca prefers it to be done away from his workplace. Fieramosca and his men leave.

Teresa arrives and sees Ascanio hand Cellini his rapier, but Cellini assures her that he will be safe. Alone, she hears the workmen start to lay down their tools and stop work, as they have not been paid and lack direction from Cellini. She tries to assure them that they will be paid eventually, but to no avail. Fieramosca then appears, and Teresa faints, thinking that Cellini is dead. This is not so, as Fieramosca is about to offer a bribe to the goldsmiths to cease work completely. This turns the goldsmiths against Fieramosca and they reassert their loyalty to Cellini. Cellini then reappears, and he and the workmen force Fieramosca to don workclothes to help out.

In the evening, the Pope and Balducci arrive to see if the statue is completed. Fieramosca then announces that they are out of metal, which Francesco and Bernardino confirm. Balducci and Fieramosca are pleased at Cellini's impending failure. Cellini then prays, and in a moment of desperation, orders that all art works in his studio, of whatever metal, be put into the crucible and melted, to the consternation of Francesco and Bernardino. After this is done, an explosion blows the lid off the crucible. Then molten metal emerges to fill the mould, and the casting is successful. Balducci and Fieramosca acknowledge Cellini's success. The Pope pardons Cellini, and Cellini and Teresa are united. The opera closes with praise for the goldsmiths.


* Philips 416-955-2: Nicolai Gedda (Benvenuto Cellini), Christiane Eda-Pierre (Teresa), Jane Berbié (Ascanio), Jules Bastin (Balducci), Robert Massard (Fieramosca), Roger Soyer (Pope Clement VII), Derek Blackwell (Francesco), Robert Lloyd (Bernardino), Raimund Herincx (Pompeo), Hugues Cuénod (Le cabaretier), Janine Reiss (Colombine; speaking role); Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; BBC Symphony Orchestra; Colin Davis, conductor [cite journal | url= | last=Pines | first=Roger | title=The Berlioz Operas on CD, Surveyed by Our Contributing Editors and Reviewers: "Benvenuto Cellini" | journal=The Opera Quarterly | volume=19 | issue=3 | pages=427–431 | date=2003 | accessdate=2008-05-10 | doi=10.1093/oq/19.3.427]
* Virgin Classics 7243 5 45706 2 9 (using the New Berlioz Edition): Gregory Kunde (Benvenuto Cellini), Patrizia Ciofi (Teresa), Joyce Di Donato (Ascanio), Laurent Naouri (Balducci), Jean-François Lapointe (Fieramosca), Renaud Delaigue (Pope Clement VII), Eric Salha(Francesco), Marc Mauillon (Bernardino), Roman Nédélec (Pompeo), Eric Huchet (Le cabaretier); Chorus of Radio France; Orchestre National de France; John Nelson, conductor [cite news | url=,,1369887,00.html | title=Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini (original text), Kunde/ Ciofi/ di Donato/ Lapointe/ Nouri/ Radio France Choir/ Orchestra Nationale/ Nelson | work=The Guardian | author=Edward Greenfield | date=2004-12-10 | accessdate=2007-04-29]
* Hänssler Classic 093.105.000 (Weimar Edition): Bruce Ford (Benvenuto Cellini), Laura Claycomb (Teresa), Monica Groop (Ascanio), Franz Hawlata (Balducci), Christopher Maltman (Fieramosca); MDR Radio Choir (Leipzig); Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra; Roger Norrington, conductor [ [ CD - "Benvenuto Cellini"] ]
* LSO Live LSO0623: Gregory Kunde (Benvenuto Cellini), Laura Claycomb (Teresa), Isabele Cais (Ascanio), Darren Jeffery (Balducci), Peter Coleman-Wright (Fieramosca), John Relyea (Pope Clement VII), Andrew Kennedy (Francesco), Andrew Foster-Williams (Bernardino), Jacques Imbrailo (Pompeo), Alasdair Elliott (Le cabaretier); London Symphony Chorus; London Symphony Orchestra; Sir Colin Davis, conductor


External links

* [ Information on "Benvenuto Cellini"] from the Metropolitan Opera
* [ "Benvenuto Cellini at Salzburger Festspiele 2007", pamphlet contaning production notes, libretto, pictures]
* [ French libretti of works by Berlioz, including two version of "Cellini"]

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