Shakespeare's plays had a profound and lasting effect on Hector Berlioz & his music: 2 major works, the dramatic symphony "Romeo et Juliette" & his last opera, "Beatrice et Benedict," as well as several shorter pieces. "B&B" has been described as "'Much Ado About Nothing' without the ado" -- & indeed Berlioz (who wrote his own libretto, both lyrics & spoken dialogue) eliminated the central intrigue around Hero & Claudio (who become minor characters) & concentrated instead on the battle of wits & evolving love between the volatile title characters. But it's the music rather than the plot that gives this work its irresistible charm & magic: "a caprice written with the fine point of a needle" was the composer's description (I believe), epitomized by the effervescent overture which remained in the repertoire even as the opera suffered neglect, at least until recent years.
We've now had 5 "complete" recordings on CD: that conducted by Daniel Barenboim, not currently available; no less than 3 conducted by Colin Davis; & this fine version from John Nelson, an outstanding Berlioz interpreter. And this is actually the only truly complete version, with ALL the dialogue (spoken largely by acting "doubles" which works better than in most such cases); Davis #1 & #3 have only the musical numbers, Davis #2 (with Janet Baker, etc.) has severely abridged dialogue performed by the singers, & Barenboim uses a narrator. So if you want to hear what Berlioz really intended -- & I recommend that you do -- this is your choice. Fortunately, it's an excellent ensemble effort, with outstanding women, including the young Susan Graham as Beatrice, & fine playing & choral work. Everyone seems to have gotten the scale of the work just right: not inflated to grand opera proportions, but not undercast or trivialized in any way. A fine achievement.