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Berlioz - Les Troyens 01

Identifier

021214

Type of spiritual experience

Background

Les Troyens

Berlioz was convinced by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein – with whom he had corresponded for some time – that he should begin to compose a new opera. This work would eventually become Les Troyens, a monumental grand opera with a libretto (which he wrote himself) based on Books Two and Four of Virgil's Aeneid. The idea of creating an opera based on the Aeneid had already been in his mind several years, by the time Sayn-Wittgenstein had approached him, and despite a long disillusionment, his creative flame seems to have remained lit. Les Troyens proved to be a very personal work for Berlioz, as it paid homage to his first literary love, whom he still cherished – even after his discoveries of Shakespeare and Goethe. The opera was planned around five acts, similar in size to the grand opera of Meyerbeer. It was composed with the Paris Opéra in mind, a most prestigious venue. Berlioz's chances of securing a production in which his work would receive attention equal to its merits were negligible from the start – a fact he must have been aware of. Despite these grim prospects, Berlioz saw the work through to its completion in 1858.

In 1860, the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris agreed to stage the opera, only to reject it the following year. It was then picked up by the Paris Opéra, only to be dropped by the Paris Opéra with the excuse that it was too expensive to stage.  The work was attacked by his opponents for its length and demands. It was then accepted by the new director of the recently re-built Théâtre-Lyrique.

The staging of Les Troyens was fraught with difficulties when performed in a truncated form at the Théâtre-Lyrique. It was eventually premiered on 4 November 1863 and ran for 21 performances until 20 December.

 It was first performed in Paris without cuts in 2003 at the Théâtre du Châtelet, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.

A description of the experience

The source of the experience

Berlioz

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Activities

Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans