Boulevard des Italiens Benjamin Bernheim

Album info



Label: Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Genre: Classical

Subgenre: Vocal

Artist: Benjamin Bernheim

Composer: Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851), Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)

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  • Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924):
  • 1Puccini: Madama Butterfly, SC 74: Adieu, sejour fleuri02:19
  • Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848):
  • 2Donizetti: La fille du régiment: Pour me rapprocher de Marie03:21
  • 3Donizetti: La Favorite: Ange si pur03:23
  • Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901):
  • 4Verdi: Don Carlos: Fontainebleau! Forêt immense02:19
  • 5Verdi: Don Carlos: Je l'ai vue02:35
  • 6Verdi: Don Carlos: Le voilà! ... Toi, mon Rodrigue05:55
  • 7Verdi: Don Carlos: Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes04:26
  • Gaetano Donizetti:
  • 8Donizetti: Dom Sébastien: Seul sur la terre05:09
  • Gaspare Spontini (1774 - 1851):
  • 9Spontini: La vestale: Introduction01:17
  • 10Spontini: La vestale: Qu'ai-je vu! ... Julia va mourir!03:08
  • Giuseppe Verdi:
  • 11Verdi: Jérusalem: L'Emir auprès de lui m'appelle02:39
  • 12Verdi: Jérusalem: Je veux encore entendre ta voix03:12
  • Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842):
  • 13Cherubini: Ali Baba: C’en est donc fait02:39
  • 14Cherubini: Ali Baba: C’est de toi, ma Delie04:38
  • Pietro Mascagni (1863 - 1945):
  • 15Mascagni: Amica: (Amica!...) Vous restez á l’ècart01:48
  • 16Mascagni: Amica: Pourquoi garder ce silence obstiné?03:46
  • Giuseppe Verdi:
  • 17Verdi: Les vêpres siciliennes: Ô toi que j'ai chérie03:45
  • Giacomo Puccini:
  • 18Puccini: Tosca, SC 69: O de beautés égales02:56
  • Total Runtime59:15

Info for Boulevard des Italiens

Documenting more than a hundred years of Italian operatic music in France, Benjamin Bernheim’s new album Boulevard des Italiens. Music stretching from Spontini’s La Vestale to Mascagni’s Amica – all sung in French – receives gold-star treatment from Bernheim, a tenor ideally placed to sing this repertoire in his native language. As he explains, “The aim was really to show the history of the French language in opera houses in Paris by way of these Italian composers who brought their pieces there. With the Opéra Garnier at one end, and the Opéra-Comique at the other, the Boulevard des Italiens is where it all happened.”

Benjamin Bernheim has received widespread acclaim for both his stage performances and his 2019 debut album on Deutsche Grammophon, for whom he records exclusively. On Boulevard des Italiens, the singer hailed by Diapason as “the new star tenor” not only gives an object lesson in French operatic singing, with diction praised for its “miraculous clarity”, but provides a fascinating survey of the symbiotic relationship between Paris and generations of Italian composers.

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, Paris was the operatic capital of Europe. From Cherubini to Mascagni, Italian composers in particular were drawn to the city with its cosmopolitan outlook and opera-loving audiences. This resulted in an exciting and productive mutual exchange between the French and Italian theatrical traditions. Almost without exception, works were staged in French, whatever their country of origin, and in adapting their music to work with the sonorities of the French language, Italian composers rose to new levels of melodic creativity.

On Boulevard des Italiens, Bernheim performs a representative selection of their operatic calling cards, having turned to the Venice-based Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de musique romantique française for advice on repertoire. As he explains, in addition to giving inspired ideas and suggestions, the organisation also “helped us enormously, doing amazing work on editing not just the vocal scores, but the orchestral ones as well”.

It was Spontini who ushered in the new era of Romantic opera in Paris, with his groundbreaking La Vestale of 1807 – a gripping, passionate scene from this work provides the earliest music on Boulevard des Italiens. Bernheim also performs music by Spontini’s near contemporary Cherubini, with an aria taken from the little-known Ali Baba (1833) and notable for its use of the high Cs which by this time every tenor had to have as part of his vocal armoury.

From the early 1800s onwards, the roster of visiting Italian composers grew. One of the most successful among their ranks was Donizetti. Bernheim has chosen excerpts from three of the operas the composer premiered in the French capital, including the less frequently performed Dom Sébastien, his final work in the genre, as well as the ever popular La Fille du régiment and La Favorite.

When it comes to the towering figure of Verdi, Bernheim has even bigger surprises in store. It is a revelation to hear the lilting tenor aria from Jérusalem, the composer’s French version of I lombardi – “transformed beyond all recognition”, as Verdi put it – as well as a genuine rarity, an aria for the tenor hero in his epic Les Vêpres siciliennes. This number was written not for the first performance but as a replacement aria in a later revival, and tucked away as an appendix in one early edition of the score. Verdi’s Don Carlos is, as Bernheim says, “a central piece for me”. For this album he selected the hero’s beautiful opening aria and the famous stirring duet for tenor and baritone in its longer, more nuanced original French version, featuring a guest appearance from baritone Florian Sempey.

The connections between Puccini and Paris are many and deep, not least for the version of Madama Butterfly premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1906 which established the definitive score of the opera. Up until the 1960s it was customary to sing Puccini in French. In reviving this tradition with two well-known arias from Madama Butterfly and Tosca, Bernheim gives an ideal demonstration of the way that “the French language, with its different accents and more nasal vowels, brings a new sonority to this music”.

Completing the historical overview, an extended scene from Mascagni’s rarely-given Amica, written to a French libretto and first performed in Monte Carlo in 1905, allows Bernheim to revel in the sound of French combined with Italian verismo at its most heartfelt.

The recording sessions with conductor Frédéric Chaslin and the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna took place in April 2021 – “just as the world was opening up again”, recalls Bernheim. “It was a wonderful feeling, both personally and musically,” he adds. “We were literally immersed in Italian sonorities.”

Benjamin Bernheim has received widespread acclaim for both his stage performances and his 2019 debut album on Deutsche Grammophon, for whom he records exclusively. On Boulevard des Italiens, the singer hailed by Diapason as “the new star tenor” not only gives an object lesson in French operatic singing, with diction praised for its “miraculous clarity”, but provides a fascinating survey of the symbiotic relationship between Paris and generations of Italian composers.

Benjamin Bernheim, tenor
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Frédéric Chaslin, conductor

Benjamin Bernheim
French tenor Benjamin Bernheim has been heralded as “…the major French lyric tenor the opera world is longing for ” (Chicago Tribune) with a distinctive voice that is “flawless and pure, ranging from delicate pianissimo to heroic fortissimo as required” (Opera News). His recent seasons have established him as a regular guest artist at Europe’s leading opera houses, including the Opéra national de Paris, Wiener Staatsoper, Staatsoper Berlin, Opéra national de Bordeaux and the Royal Opera House in London where he performs leading tenor roles from the romantic repertoire.

Mr. Bernheim begins his 2019/20 season with the role of Alfredo in a new production of La traviata at the Opéra national de Paris, followed by his highly anticipated role debut as Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto at the Bayerische Staatsoper. He returns to both of these opera houses later in the season to sing the role of Rodolfo in Pucinni’s beloved masterpiece La bohème, and sings the role at the Staatsoper Berlin. At the Wiener Staatsoper, he sings Alfredo in June. Having debuted the role of Des Grieux (Manon) at the Opéra national de Bordeaux to great acclaim in the 2018/19 season, Mr. Bernheim revisits the role at the Opéra national de Paris in the spring. The tenor also performs in concert three times during the season, at Opéra national de Bordeaux, at Opernhaus Zurich and at La Grange au Lac.

Previous highlights include Rodolfo in La bohème at the Opéra national de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, Royal Opera House (London), and Wiener Staatsoper, Des Grieux in Manon at the Opéra national de Bordeaux, Lensky in Eugene Onegin at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Alfredo in La traviata at the Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House (London), Opernhaus Zürich, Semperoper Dresden Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper Berlin, Faust (title role) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, and at the Latvian National Opera, and Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore at the Wiener Staatsoper. On the concert stage, recital work forms an important part of his season, as well as Verdi’s Requiem, and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. In 2018, he signed with Deutsche Grammophon, and his debut album will be released worldwide on November 8th, 2019. An active presence on social media, he can be found on instagram, and facebook @benbernheimtenor.

Benjamin Bernheim studied with Gary Magby at the Lausanne Conservatoire, participated in masterclasses with Giacomo Aragall, and attended Carlo Bergonzi’s Accademia Verdiana in Busseto.

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