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Beatrice and Benedick Hits a High Note

Cornelius Rogers | Sunday, April 19, 2009

This year Opera Notre Dame had the arduous task of producing Hector Berlioz’s “Beatrice and Benedick.” Set in Messina, a city in Sicily, “Beatrice and Benedick” is a story that reminds audiences that falling in love is tricky, especially when it is with the person you hate. While the play is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” do not expect a direct correlation of plot events. Among other things, the Don John storyline is entirely omitted to focus on the romance of Beatrice and Benedick. The plot omissions help the opera tell a more concise story in a manageable 65 minutes without an intermission. What is not lost in the translation is the humor so prevalent in both Shakespeare’s and Berlioz’s works. Opera Notre Dame succeeds at getting the audience to laugh with them, and at them. What is unique about this year’s production is that it utilizes two casts – one for the Thursday and Saturday night shows, and the other for Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The casts contain the fantastic talents of Notre Dame students Joshua Diaz, Dominic Go, Stephanie DePerez, Jennifer Valencia and Dan Crupi. The cast does a great job of responding to the audience, knowing when to make them laugh and when to make them applaud. The only downside to this opera is that a large majority of its songs are given to female characters, but that does not make the high notes these sopranos and altos hit any less incredible.Also making an appearance is none other than the chair of Notre Dame’s music department, Louis MacKenzie. His self-referential style of humor includes several Notre Dame images. Yes, the jig and the various hand gestures that accompany football games can be found here. Instead of depreciating the aesthetic value, these allusions further the humorous tone that is so prevalent throughout the opera. “Beatrice and Benedick” succeeds in making audiences laugh and telling a love story with an upbeat and light-hearted tone.