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Benvenuto Cellini
An Opera by Hector Berlioz


Opera in three acts, by Berlioz. Words by du Wailly and Barbier. Produced, and failed completely, Grand Opéra, Paris, September 3, 1838, and London a fortnight later. Revived London, Covent Garden, 1853, under Berloiz’s own direction; by Liszt, at Weimar, 1855; by von Bülow, Hanover, 1879.

CHARACTERS

CARDINAL SALVIATI…………………………………..…. Bass
BALDUCCI, Papal Treasurer…………………………….. Bass
TERESA, his daughter…………………………………… Soprano
BENVENUTO CELLINI, a goldsmith…………………..…. Tenor
ASCANIO, his apprentice……………………………….…. Mezzo-soprano
FRANCESO, Artisan in Cellini's workshop……….….…. Tenor
BERNARDINO, Artisan in Cellini's workshop……….….…. Bass
FIERAMOSCA, sculptor to the Pope………………………. Baritone
POMPEO, bravo…………………………………………….…. Baritone

Time: 1532.
Place: Rome.

Act I. The carnival of 1532. We are in the house of the Papal treasurer, Balducci, who has scolded his daughter Teresa for having looked out of the window. The old man is quite vexed, because the Pope has summoned the goldsmith Cellini to Rome.

Balducci’s daughter Teresa, however, thinks quite otherwise and is happy. For she has found a note from Cellini in a bouquet that was thrown in to her from the street by a mask -- Cellini, of course. A few moment later he appears at hr side and proposes a plan of elopement. In the morning, during the carnival mask, he will wear a white monk’s hood. His apprentice Ascanio will wear a brown one. They will join her and they will flee together. But a listener has sneaked in -- Fieramosca, the Pope’s sculptor, and no less Cellini’s rival in love than in art. He overhears the plot. Unexpectedly, too, Teresa’s father, Balducci, comes back. His daughter still up? In her anxiety to find an excuse, she says she heard a man sneak in. During the search Cellini disappears, and Fieramosca is apprehended. Before he can explain his presence, women neighbours, who have hurried, drag him off to the public bath house and treat him to a ducking.

Act II. In the courtyard of a tavern Cellini is seated, with his assistants. He is happy in his love, for he places it even higher than fame, which alone heretofore he has courted. He must pledge his love in wine. Unfortunately the host will no longer give him credit. Just then Ascanio brings some money from the Papel treasurer, but in return Cellini must promise to complete his "Perseus" by morning. He promises, although the avaricious Balducci has profited by his necessity and has sent too little money. Ascanio is informed by Cellini of the disguises they are to wear at the carnival, and of his plan that Teresa shall flee with him.





Again Fieramosca has been spying, and overhears the plot. Accordingly he hires the bravo Pompeo to assist him in carrying off Teresa.

A change of scene shows the crowd of maskers on the Piazza di Collona. Balducci comes along with Teresa. Both from the right and left through the crowd come two monks in the disguise she and her lover agreed upon. Which is the right couple? Soon, however, the two couples fall upon each other. A scream, and one of the brownhooded monks (Pompeo) falls mortally wounded to the ground. A white-hooded monk (Cellini) has stabbed him. The crowd hurls itself upon Cellini. But at that moment the boom of a cannon gives notice that the carnival celebration is over. It is Ash Wedneday. In the first shock of surprise Cellini escapes, and in his place the other white-hooded monk, Fieramosca, is seized.

Act III. Before Cellini’s house, in the background of which, through a curtain, is seen the bronze foundry, the anxious Teresa’s is assured by Ascanio that her lover is safe. Soon he comes along himself, with a band of monks, to whom he describes his escape. Then Balducci and Fieramosca rush in. Balducci wants to force his daughter to become Fieramosca’s bride. The scene is interrupted by the arrival of Cardinal Salviati to see the completed "Perseus." Poor Cellini! Accused of murder and the attempted kidnapping of a girl, the "Perseus" unfinished, the money received for it spent! Heavy punishment awaits him, and another shall receive the commission to finish the "Perseus."

The artist flies into a passion. Another finish his masterpiece! Never! The casting shall be done on the spot! Not metal enough? He seizes his completed works and throws them into the molten mass. The casting begins. The master shatters the mould. The "Perseus," a noble work of art, appears before the eyes of the astonished onlookers -- a potent plea for the inspired master. Once more have Art and her faithful servant triumphed over all rivals.

The statue of Perseus, by Benvenuto Cellini, one of the most famous creations of medieval Italy, is one of the art treasures of Florence.





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