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Berlioz - chorus from l'Enfance du Christ

Identifier

021211

Type of spiritual experience

Background

L'enfance du Christ

Constantly criticised, constantly up against hostility, Berlioz almost abandoned Benvenuto Cellini after the disastrous premiere of 1838.  Berlioz had travelled to London in the following year to stage it at Theatre Royal, Covent Garden but withdrew it after one performance owing to the hostile reception.  In 1852, his friend and supporter Liszt revived it in what was to become the "Weimar version" of the opera, containing modifications made with the approval of Berlioz.

In 1850, Berlioz conducted an experiment on his many vocal critics. He composed a work entitled the Shepherd's Farewell and performed it in two concerts under the guise of it being by a composer named Pierre Ducré. This composer was of course a fictional construct by Berlioz. The trick worked, and the critics praised the work by 'Ducré' and claimed it was an example that Berlioz would do well to follow. "Berlioz could never do that!", he recounts in his Mémoires, was one of the comments.  Berlioz later incorporated the piece into La fuite en Egypte from L'enfance du Christ.

Harriet Smithson, his estranged wife, died in 1854.  L'enfance du Christ was completed later that year and “was well-received upon its premiere.  Unusually for a late Berlioz work, it appears to have remained popular long after his death.”

A description of the experience

Hector Berlioz's moving chorus from l'Enfance du Christ sung by the RCS at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2011. The oratorio is based on the Holy Family's flight into Egypt.

Royal Choral Society: The Shepherds' Farewell, Hector Berlioz

The source of the experience

Berlioz

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: John Bryant