Hector Berlioz, Terry Gilliam and Benvenuto Cellini

One of my interests is classical music, for instance this week I have mainly been listening to the symphonies of Boccherini. I can now spell Boccherini.

Anyway last Saturday the 14th of November I went to see the Terry Gilliam production of Hector Berlioz’ opera Benvenuto Cellini at the Liceu in Barcelona. I now know how to pronounce Hector Berlioz. The H isn’t pronounced and the Z is.

The two and three quarter hour Opera with one interval was brilliant. Terry Gilliam talking about the Opera on youtube said Berlioz made three versions of this Opera and none of them worked, then laughed. Dramatically some of it could have been written by my mum. ‘It was a miracle I escaped,’ stuff. But as we know dramatically this Opera doesn´t work and musically it is phenomenal. Terry keeps to the music.

At the end of the first half nothing happens plot wise for half an hour, but musically there are four finales following on one after the other. Terry throws everything at the audience in a visual spectacular, so at the end of the act the audience in a semi stunned state find themselves at the end of the act. Start big and stay big like a Mussolini speech is the way to get people from A to B in Benvenuto Cellini.

The two production highlights for me? It’s the best entrance by a Pope I’ve seen all year. And a large golden head follows us around until the final casting of the sculpture when it disappears and is replaced by a giant pair of legs and a cock to scale which vertically fill the stage. (The legs, not the cock). A visual surprise right at the end.

Some might say there was nothing different in Gilliam’s approach of excess as a discipline. The man is 75. We don’t want different things from him we just want more of them.


Go back to news