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date: 20 February 2020

Troyens, Les (‘The Trojans’)locked

  • D. Kern Holoman

Extract

(‘The Trojans’)

Opéra in five acts by Hector Berlioz to his own libretto after Virgil’s Aeneid; Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, 4 November 1863 (Acts 3–5, as Les Troyens à Carthage); Karlsruhe, 6–7 December 1890 (complete).

Berlioz was encouraged to undertake an opera on the Aeneid by Liszt’s mistress, the Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, during his visits to Weimar in 1855–6. His Mémoires, compiled for the most part between 1848 and 1854, trace the lure of Virgil to the ‘budding imagination’ of his childhood. The scene of Dido on her funeral pyre was but the most vividly remembered of these ‘epic passions for which instinct had prepared me’. In his writings Berlioz often cites the Aeneid, in Latin and from memory (and often, therefore, with errors). Yet his correspondence lacks the references to compositional ferment over Les Troyens that exist for the funeral and Napoleonic works, the Shakespearian compositions and Faust. The implication is that until then he had considered Virgil too hallowed for operatic setting, especially in view of the shoddy treatment an operatic ...

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