Major Operas | Benvenuto Cellini by Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic

Composed: 1834–37
Premiered: 1838, Paris
Libretto by Léon de Wailly and Auguste Barbier, after Cellini

Act I

The Pope has commissioned Cellini to make a statue of Perseus. Balducci, the treasurer, is annoyed; he wants the commission to go to Fieramosca, who he also wants to marry his daughter Teresa; she is in love with Cellini.

Masked revellers, Cellini among them, mock Balducci. Teresa watches, hoping to see her lover. Cellini and Teresa meet and he outlines a plan for their elopement: he and his apprentice Ascanio, dressed as monks, will abduct Teresa at the theatre. Fieramosca overhears the plan but is discovered by a furious Balducci.

Cellini and the metalworkers drink and praise their art. Balducci’s meagre payment for the statue arrives; they arrange for him to be mocked in a play. Fieramosca tells Pompeo of Cellini’s plan; they decide to steal the idea.

At the theatre, Balducci is enraged by the play. He attacks the actors and the four ‘monks’ make for Teresa. A fight breaks out, in which Cellini kills Pompeo. Cellini escapes, while Fieramosca is arrested.

Act II

Teresa and Ascanio pray for Cellini, who appears. They rejoice, until an angry Balducci arrives with Fieramosca. The Pope enters, demanding his statue. After being persuaded not to re-commission the work, the Pope promises Cellini a pardon and Teresa’s hand if the statue is finished in a day; if not, Cellini will hang.

Cellini wishes for an easy life as he works on the statue. Fieramosca enters, challenging Cellini to a duel, and bribes the workers to leave. Teresa intervenes and Fieramosca is forced to join in the workforce.

The Pope and Balducci arrive to watch the casting. The metal runs out; Cellini orders his previous works to be melted down. The casting is successful. The Pope is pleased and Balducci allows Teresa to marry Cellini. Everyone rejoices in the triumph of the arts.

Personalities | Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic | Opera


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