You know those friends who are so constantly at each other that you and all your other friends wish they’d just do it and get it over with?
Berlioz wrote an opera about them.
While technically written by Berlioz, the libretto is lifted from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Berlioz liked Shakespeare. In fact, to prove his fan-boy-ness, Berlioz put a Donkey character into this opera. But I digress.
Béatrice et Bénédict is the story of…. Beatrice and Benedict. They hate each other – as is evidenced by their pithy repartee. When the opera opens, Benedict and his friend Claudio are on the way home from a victorious battle, in the company of Don Pedro. Claudio is engaged to Héro, the governor’s daughter (and Beatrice’s cousin). Claudio and Hero are the boring but reliable friends. Everyone needs boring and reliable friends.
The boring and reliable Claudio, along with his boss (Don Pedro) and his future father-in-law, decide it’s time to force a Beatrice-Benedict hookup. Knowing that Benedict is an idiot, they wait until they notice him hiding in the hydrangeas (do they have hydrangeas in Sicily?) and then talk very loudly about how they overheard Beatrice saying that she’s thinking of offing herself because of her love for Benedict.
Benedict digs this.
Hero and her wing girl Ursule do the same to Beatrice. As hoped, both Beatrice and Benedict go all twirly-eyed and can think of nothing but how in love they are.
The entire point of this opera seems to make one look back at her 20s and be embarrassed all over again.
This could be accomplished in under an hour except we need to make room for the donkey. To celebrate the wedding, Somarone (which means “Great Donkey”) has written a song and is rehearsing a local chorus. They are horrible, but not as horrible as the song. When someone points out that the song is horrible, Somarone goes into great musicological detail about how brilliant it is, proving himself a Giant Ass.
Hero’s father throws a party to celebrate the wedding. Everyone gets drunk. Beatrice and Benedict go mooning about. The caterers go romp in the bushes. It is pretty much like every wedding, ever.
And then when the actual wedding takes place, there are two wedding contracts and, not wanting to waste paper, Benedict and Beatrice decide they should just go ahead and do it already.