Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare and Berlioz combine to bring the comedy of Much Ado About Nothing (aka Béatrice et Bénédict) to glorious life. Romance is in the air, even when sparks fly between the independent Beatrice and the cheeky Benedict. Celebrate their cheerful battles as Love reigns supreme in a celebration of word and music that is a delight from beginning to end!

“It’s an appealing and insightful comedy…that combines the signature brilliance and bombast of composer Hector Berlioz with the sly, comedic insights of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” (NPR)

The Show

Much Ado About Nothing (Béatrice et Bénédict) was performed on Friday, October 28, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 30, at 2:30 pm in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center.

How was the production? Here’s a reaction from Peter van de Graaff, Music Director, Beethoven Network and KWAX:

Congratulations to Eugene Opera for their fine production of such a deserving opera as Berlioz’ “Much Ado About Nothing.” At a time when most other arts organizations are retreating into the tried and true, they stand out as a very enterprising company. How wonderful, as well, that they are cultivating artists in the Pacific Northwest.

My wife and I attended the second performance and loved it! We’re looking forward to attending many more of their shows.

Take a sneak peek in this video from the dress rehearsal on October 28.

Read more about the show in these recent Eugene Review articles:

“Much Ado About Chamber Opera With A Eugene Company Perched On The Verge Of Greatness”

“Opera singers can’t wait to sing Béatrice and Bénédict”

And in this Register-Guard preview:

“Eugene Opera opens its 40th season this weekend with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’”

The Opera

Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s immortal comic masterpiece, has been staged an unknowable number of times over its 400-plus-year history. Recently, it has been performed on television and in films.

But it was not until the great French composer Hector Berlioz composed his opera Béatrice et Bénédict (named after the two main characters) that the musical potential of Much Ado About Nothing was realized. Berlioz perfectly captured the whimsical moods of Shakespeare’s creation, in gorgeous music that is by turns tender, mocking, and triumphant.

Berlioz wrote the French libretto himself, closely echoing Shakespeare. The opera is faithful to the central plot (the love-hate relationship between Beatrice and Benedick), while cutting some peripheral characters and adding a new one, the ludicrous music master Somarone.

Meet the characters in these brief excerpts from a recent performance at Glyndebourne (video):

How is the opera different from the play? Compare the two in these video excerpts from the 1993 Kenneth Branagh film of the play (starring Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and Keanu Reeves) and the Glyndebourne Opera production.

The Music

Maestro Glen Cortese
Maestro Glen Cortese

This production will be conducted by Maestro Glen Cortese, a Eugene favorite known to many from his years with the Oregon Mozart Players.

Maestro Cortese describes Hector Berlioz’s Much Ado About Nothing (Béatrice et Bénédict) as a “jewel.” Cortese explains that the music has the precision and clarity of Mozart, although the musical idiom is of course quite different. Especially noteworthy is the accuracy with which the music portrays the thoughts and feelings of the characters. Berlioz reveals the multiple types of love experienced by the two couples (Beatrice and Benedict, Hero and Claudio), making them three-dimensional characters. Filled with sparkling humor, this opera is a true masterpiece, in Maestro Cortese’s view.

Maestro Cortese served as artistic director of the Oregon Mozart Players for nine seasons, and he was named music director emeritus after leaving that post. He is currently music director of the Greeley Philharmonic and artistic director of the Western New York Chamber. His recent guest engagements include the Wolftrap Opera, The Charleston Symphony, the Sapporo Festival Orchestra, the Slovak Radio Orchestra, the Sofia Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, the Mexico City Philharmonic, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the Lafayette Symphony, the Billings Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Cleveland, and the Annapolis Symphony. He is also an accomplished composer.

The Cast

Eugene Opera’s production features an outstanding cast, including both returning favorites and some new faces — and voices! Conducted by Glen Cortese. Directed by Mark Beudert.

Mezzo Melina Pyron
Mezzo Melina Pyron
as Béatrice
Tenor Brendan Tuohy
Tenor Brendan Tuohy
as Bénédict
Soprano Emily Way
Soprano Emily Way
as Héro
Baritone Zachary Angus
Baritone Zachary Angus
as Claudio
Baritone Bill Hulings
Baritone Bill Hulings
as Don Pedro
Baritone Sandy Naishtat
Baritone Sandy Naishtat
as Somarone
Laura Beckel Thoreson
Mezzo Laura Beckel Thoreson
as Ursule
Steve Wehmeier
Steve Wehmeier
as Léonato