In his lifetime Hector Berlioz wrote three operas (four, if you count the “Dramatic legend” La Damnation de Faust, which is sometimes staged as an opera even though its long passages of purely orchestral music make such staging difficult). The first is rarely heard on the opera stages of the world today owing to its high degree of difficulty for the singers, but the opera isn’t completely forgotten, as its overture is frequently heard in concert halls. Benvenuto Cellini is based on the memoirs of the Renaissance sculptor of the same name. In addition to fine sculpture, Cellini left behind an autobiography that has been hailed as the finest autobiography ever written, and which represents one of the finest accounts of Renaissance Italy written by a contemporary. Berlioz had a deep love of all things literary, which informed all of his music, including the opera Benvenuto Cellini. Even though this opera failed (and only one of Berlioz’s three operas, Beatrice et Benedict, was a success during his life), Berlioz–ever the recycler–made use of some of its material in one of his most famous works, the Roman Carnival overture.
Here is the overture to Hector Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini.