Mid Wales Opera to Tour Berlioz’s ‘Beatrice & Benedict’

By Chris Ruel

Opera and Shakespeare fans have the opportunity this fall to see the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing” adapted for the opera stage by Hector Berlioz.

Beatrice and Benedict,” a story about the intricacies of love between two of Shakespeare’s most cherished characters, will be performed by Mid Wales Opera. The show will tour as part of the Folio400, celebrating the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s plays, and as the centerpiece of the company’s SmallStages Tour.

Berlioz’s lifelong love of Shakespeare comes through in the score that features the famous nocturne duet whose beauty is matchless among the composer’s work. The French libretto was crafted by Berlioz, drawing its inspiration from the play’s subplot.

“Beatrice and Benedict” is the earliest significant opera adaptation of a Shakespeare play, marking a path for others to follow.

MWO’s production features six singers and four musicians. Amanda Holden translated The libretto into English, with Shakespeare’s original texts adapted by Richard Studer and a new chamber arrangement by Jonathan Lyness.

The show stars Monica McGhee as Beatrice and Huw Ynyr as Benedict. Richard Studer directs with Lyness on the podium.

Music Director Lyness said in an official press statement, “MWO started thinking about a Shakespeare season a few years ago. We wanted to stage one of the great Verdi/Shakespeare operas as MWO’s Main Stages spring production. This left us with a quandary as to what to do for our Small Stages tour. Thinking about Verdi and his passion for Shakespeare led me to think about Berlioz and his similar passion for Shakespeare. They are the two great Shakespearean composers of the 19th century, arguably of all time. Remarkably, just as Verdi turned to writing a Shakespearean comedy at the end of his life, so too had Berlioz. And just as Falstaff confirmed Verdi to be at the height of his powers, so Beatrice and Benedict had confirmed Berlioz’s inspiration to be in full flight.”

The Beatrice & Benedict tour starts at SpArC, Bishop’s Castle, on Friday, October 13, 2023.

The tour continues with productions set for Gregynog near Newtown (Oct. 14), Presteigne (Oct. 18), Abergavenny (Oct. 19), Aberdovey (Oct. 20), Mold (Oct. 25), Criccieth (Oct. 26), Builth Wells (Oct. 27), Fishguard (Nov. 1), Aberdare (Nov. 2), Barmouth (Nov. 3), and Holyhead (Nov. 8).

The show’s final performance will be in Ludlow on Friday, November 10.