With his mature musicianship, powerful stage presence and engaging, approachable persona, French tenor Benjamin Bernheim stands out from the operatic crowd. In April 2019, he signed a long-term exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His debut album for the yellow label, set for release this autumn, showcases the breadth and depth of his exceptional talent in a wide-ranging selection of tenor arias.
“Working in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, a label with such a long and illustrious history, is both an enormous honour and a huge responsibility,” says Bernheim, for whom the world’s most prestigious opera houses are already homes from home. “It’s given me an even greater incentive to perform at the very highest level.” Born in Paris in 1985, Bernheim studied in Lausanne then became a member of Zurich Opera’s renowned International Opera Studio. Before long he was one of the most sought-after lyric tenors worldwide, and he is now regularly invited to appear at La Scala, Milan, the Berlin Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival, among many others. Wherever he goes, he captivates audiences with his mesmerising vocal and dramatic interpretations.
Accompanied by the Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Emmanuel Villaume, on his debut DG album Bernheim presents a varied programme drawn from the Italian, Russian and French operatic repertoire. His vocal and expressive versatility can be heard, for example, in Lensky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, an opera in which he enjoyed huge success at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, and in Edgardo’s “Tombe degli avi miei” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Another of the characters featured here is Puccini’s Rodolfo (La bohème), a role he sees as “steeped in tradition”, and therefore one for which he needed to find his own personal interpretation – “a challenging but hugely rewarding experience”. The music of his birthplace is particularly close to his heart, and is represented on the album by arias such as “En fermant les yeux” from Massenet’s Manon, “L’Amour! Oui, son ardeur” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and “Salut! demeure chaste et pure” from the same composer’s Faust. “The French repertoire requires perfect diction and the ability to convey the meaning behind the text as well”, observes Bernheim. “There is so much poetry in these pieces and there are so many details to discover in them. My aim is to bring all of this out in my performances. These are works in which I can give 150% and use every different facet of my voice.”
The masterpiece of French opera – Gounod’s ‘Faust‘ – still has surprises in store for us. Originally conceived in the spirit of opéra-comique, the 1859 score alternated between spoken dialogue and music, intermingling witty comedy and Romantic pathos. It is that ‘first Faust’ that the Palazzetto Bru Zane reveals in this recording, and particularly the many numbers that were subsequently deleted or altered. To restore the opera in its original colours, the Centre de musique romantique française has called on Christophe Rousset and his ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, who provide an unfamiliar aesthetic perspective on a work we all thought we knew well. This is also one of the firsts major recordings of the young tenor Benjamin Bernheim, who sings Faust, and who finds in Véronique Gens a partner with great experience in the music and text of this repertory.
Contents of the book
Alexandre Dratwicki, Creating or recreating the ‘first’ Faust
Gérard Condé, At all times, in all places
Paul Prévost, The other Faust
Hélène Cao, Goethe’s Faust in Romantic music
Charles Gounod, Memoirs of an artist – Faust
Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov, Armando Piña, Carlos Chausson & Benjamin Bernheim
Marco Armiliato, conductor
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
“… the young French tenor Benjamin Bernheim was a particularly mellifluous Edmondo, the student poet who initially eggs on Des Grieux.” (Bachtrack)