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Les Troyens

Les Troyens (in English: The Trojans) is a French grand opera in five acts by Hector Berlioz.[1] The libretto was written by Berlioz himself from Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid; the score was composed between 1856 and 1858. Les Troyens is Berlioz's most ambitious work, the summation of his entire artistic career, but he did not live to see it performed in its entirety. Under the title Les Troyens à Carthage, the last three acts were premièred with many cuts by Léon Carvalho's company, the Théâtre Lyrique, at their theatre (now the Théâtre de la Ville) on the Place du Châtelet in Paris on 4 November 1863, with 21 repeat performances.


  • Composition history 1
  • Early performance history 2
    • Premiere of the second part 2.1
    • Early concert performances of portions of the opera 2.2
    • First performance of both parts 2.3
  • Publication of the score 3
  • Later performance history 4
  • Critical evaluation 5
  • Roles 6
  • Instrumentation 7
  • Synopsis 8
    • Act 1 8.1
    • Act 2 8.2
    • Act 3 8.3
    • Act 4 8.4
    • Act 5 8.5
  • Musical numbers 9
    • Act 1 9.1
    • Act 2 9.2
    • Act 3 9.3
    • Act 4 9.4
    • Act 5 9.5
    • Supplement 9.6
  • Recordings 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Composition history

Cover of the first edition vocal score of La prise de Troie, the first two acts of Les Troyens

Berlioz began the libretto on 5 May 1856 and completed it toward the end of June 1856. He finished the full score on 12 April 1858.[2] Berlioz had a keen affection for literature, and he had admired Virgil since his childhood.[3] The Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein was a prime motivator to Berlioz to compose this opera.[4]

[…] At that time I had completed the dramatic work I mentioned earlier and which I referred to in a footnote to one of my earlier chapters [i.e. chapter 59 concerning Les Troyens: see above]. Four years earlier I happened to be in Weimar at the home of Princess Wittgenstein – a devoted friend of Liszt, and a woman of character and intelligence who has often given me support in my darkest hours. I was led to talk of my admiration for Virgil and of the idea I had formed of a great opera, designed on Shakespearean lines, for which Books Two and Four of the Aeneid would provide the subject-matter. I added that I was all too aware of the pain that such an undertaking would inevitably cause me ever to embark on it. "Indeed, the princess replied, the conjunction of your passion for Shakespeare and your love of antiquity must result in the creation of something grand and novel. You must write this opera, this lyric poem; call it what you like and plan it as you wish. You must start work on it and bring it to completion." As I persisted in my refusal: "Listen, said the princess, if you shrink before the hardships that it is bound to cause you, if you are so weak as to be afraid of the work and will not face everything for the sake of Dido and Cassandra, then never come back here, for I do not want to see you ever again." This was more than enough to decide me. Once back in Paris I started to write the lines for the poem of Les Troyens. Then I set to work on the score, and after three and a half years of corrections, changes, additions etc., everything was finished. As I was polishing the work over and over again, after giving numerous readings of the poem in different places, listening to the comments made by various listeners and benefiting from them to the best of my ability, I decided to write the following letter to the Emperor:

On 3 May 1861, Berlioz wrote in a letter: "I am sure that I have written a great work, greater and nobler than anything done hitherto." Elsewhere he wrote: "The principal merit of the work is, in my view, the truthfulness of the expression." For Berlioz, truthful representation of passion was the highest goal of a dramatic composer, and in this respect he felt he had equalled the achievements of Gluck and Mozart.

Early performance history

Premiere of the second part

Cover of the 1863 Choudens et Cie vocal score for Les Troyens à Carthage, the second half of the opera, and first part performed.

In his memoirs, Berlioz described in excruciating detail the intense frustrations he experienced in seeing the work performed. For five years (from 1858 to 1863), the Paris Opéra – the only suitable stage in Paris – vacillated. Finally, tired of waiting, he agreed to let Léon Carvalho, director of the smaller Théâtre Lyrique, mount a production of the second half of the opera with the title Les Troyens à Carthage. It consisted of Acts 3 to 5, redivided by Berlioz into five acts, to which he added an orchestral introduction (Lamento) and a prologue.[5] As Berlioz noted bitterly, he agreed to let Carvalho do it "despite the manifest impossibility of his doing it properly. He had just obtained an annual subsidy of a hundred thousand francs from the government. None the less the enterprise was beyond him. His theater was not large enough, his singers were not good enough, his chorus and orchestra were small and weak."[6]

Even with this truncated version of the opera, many compromises and cuts were made, some during rehearsals, and some during the run. The new second act was the Chasse Royale et Orage ("Royal Hunt and Storm") [no. 29], an elaborate pantomime ballet with nymphs, sylvans, and fauns and a chorus. Since the set change for this scene took nearly an hour, it was cut, despite the fact its staging had been greatly simplified with a painted waterfall, rather than one with real water. Carvalho had originally planned to divert water from the nearby Seine, but during the rehearsals, a faulty switch nearly caused a disaster.[7] The entries of the builders, sailors, and farm-workers [nos. 20–22], were omitted because Carvalho found them dull; likewise, the scene for Anna and Narbal [nos. 30–31] and the second ballet [no. 33b]. The sentries duet [no. 40] was omitted, because Carvalho had found its "homely style... out of place in an epic work".[8] Iopas's stanzas [no. 25] disappeared with Berlioz's approval, the singer De Quercy "charged with the part being incapable of singing them well."[8] The duet between Dido and Aeneas [no. 44] was cut because, as Berlioz himself realized, "Madame Charton's voice was unequal to the vehemence of this scene, which took so much out of her that she would not have had the strength left to deliver the tremendous recitative 'Dieux immortels! il part!' [no. 46], the final aria ['Adieu, fière cité', no. 48], and the scene on the pyre [nos. 50–52]."[8] The "Song of Hylas" [no. 38], which was "greatly liked at the early performances and was well sung",[8] was cut while Berlioz was at home sick with bronchitis. The singer of the part, Edmond Cabel, was also performing in a revival of Félicien David's La perle du Brésil, and since his contract only required him to sing fifteen times per month, he would have to be paid an extra two hundred francs for each additional performance.[8][9] Berlioz lamented: "If I am able to put on an adequate performance of a work of this scale and character I must be in absolute control of the theatre, as I am of the orchestra when I rehearse a symphony."[10]

Even in its less than ideal form, the work made a profound impression. For example, Meyerbeer attended 12 performances. Berlioz's son Louis attended each performance.[11] A friend tried to console Berlioz for having endured so much in the mutilation of his magnum opus and pointed out that after the first night audiences were increasing. "See", he said encouragingly to Berlioz, "they are coming." "Yes", replied Berlioz, feeling old and worn out, "they are coming, but I am going." Berlioz never saw the first two acts, later given the name La prise de Troie ['The Capture of Troy'].

Early concert performances of portions of the opera

After the premiere of the second part at the Théâtre Lyrique, portions of the opera were next presented in concert form. Two performances of La prise de Troie were given in Paris on the same day, 7 December 1879: one by the Concerts Pasdeloup at the Cirque d'Hiver with Anne Charton-Demeur as Cassandra, Stéphani as Aeneas, conducted by Ernest Reyer; and another by the Concerts Colonne at the Théâtre du Châtelet with Leslino as Cassandra, Piroia as Aeneas, conducted by Edouard Colonne. These were followed by two concerts in New York: the first, Act 2 of La prise de Troie, was performed in English on 6 May 1882 by Thomas's May Festival at the 7th Regiment Armory with Amalie Materna as Cassandra, Italo Campanini as Aeneas, conducted by Theodore Thomas; the second, Les Troyens à Carthage (with cuts), was given in English on 26 February 1887 at Chickering Hall with Marie Gramm as Dido, Max Alvary as Aeneas, and possibly conducted by Frank Van der Stucken.[12]

First performance of both parts

The first staged performance of the whole opera only took place in 1890, 21 years after Berlioz's death. The first and second parts, in Berlioz's revised versions of three and five acts, were sung on two successive evenings, 6 and 7 December, in German at Karlsruhe (see Roles). This production was frequently revived over the succeeding eleven years and was sometimes given on a single day. The conductor, Felix Mottl, took his production to Mannheim in 1899 and conducted another production in Munich in 1908, which was revived in 1909. He rearranged some of the music for the Munich production, placing the "Royal Hunt and Storm" after the love duet, a change that "was to prove sadly influential."[13] A production of both parts, with cuts, was mounted in Nice in 1891.[14]

In subsequent years, according to Berlioz biographer David Cairns, the work was thought of as "a noble white elephant - something with beautiful things in it, but too long and supposedly full of dead wood. The kind of maltreatment it received in Paris as recently as last winter in a new production will, I'm sure, be a thing of the past."[15]

Publication of the score

Cover of the Choudens et Cie score.

Berlioz arranged for the entire score to be published by the Parisian music editors Choudens et Cie. In this published score, he introduced a number of optional cuts which have often been adopted in subsequent productions. Berlioz complained bitterly of the cuts that he was more-or-less forced to allow at the 1863 Théâtre Lyrique première production, and his letters and memoirs are filled with the indignation that it caused him to "mutilate" his score. In the early 20th century, the lack of accurate parts led musicologists W. J. Turner and Cecil Gray to plan a raid on the publisher's Paris office, even approaching the Parisian underworld for help.[15]

In 1969, Bärenreiter Verlag of Kassel, Germany, published a critical edition of Les Troyens, containing all the compositional material left by Berlioz.[16] The preparation of this critical edition was the work of Hugh Macdonald, whose Cambridge University doctoral dissertation this was.[17] The tendency since then has been to perform the opera complete.

Later performance history

On 9 June 1892 the Paris Opéra-Comique staged Les Troyens à Carthage (in the same theatre as its premiere) and witnessed a triumphant début for the 17-year-old Marie Delna as Didon, with Stéphane Lafarge as Enée, conducted by Jules Danbé; these staged performances of Part 2 continued into the next year.[18]

In December 1906 the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels commenced a run of performances with the two halves on successive nights.[19]

The Martial Singher as Chorèbe. Gaubert conducted all performances in Paris before the Second World War.

The Paris Opéra gave a new production of a condensed version of Les Troyens on March 17, 1961,[21] directed by Margherita Wallmann, with sets and costumes by Piero Zuffi. Pierre Dervaux was the conductor, with Régine Crespin as Didon, Geneviève Serrès as Cassandre, Jacqueline Broudeur as Anna, Guy Chauvet as Énée, Robert Massard as Chorèbe and Georges Vaillant as Narbal; performances by this cast were broadcast on French radio. Several of these artists, in particular Crespin and Chauvet, participated in a set of extended highlights commercially recorded by EMI in 1965, Georges Prêtre conducting.

In the UK, concert performances of Les Troyens à Carthage took place in 1897 and 1928,[22] then in 1935 a complete Les Troyens was performed by Glasgow Grand Opera Society, directed by Scottish composer Erik Chisholm.[23]

Les Troyens was performed for the first time in London in a concert performance conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham and broadcast at the BBC in 1947.[24] His cast included Ferrer as both Didon and Cassandre, Jean Giraudeau as Énée and Charles Cambon as both Chorèbe (a role he had sung in Paris in 1929) and Narbal. An aircheck of this performance has been issued on CD. However, the 1957 production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden conducted by Rafael Kubelík and directed by John Gielgud, has been described as "the first full staging in a single evening that even approximated the composer's original intentions".[25] It was sung in English...

The performance of Les Troyens used at various productions at the Paris Opéra and by Beecham and by Kubelík in London were the orchestral and choral parts from Choudens et Cie. of Paris, the only edition then available. The Critical Edition score from Bärenreiter first published in 1969 was used by Colin Davis in the Covent Garden production that year and parallel Philips recording.[15]

The first American stage performance of Les Troyens (an abbreviated version, sung in English) was given by

  • Les Troyens: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • of Hector BerliozMemoirs in Extracts from the Les Troyens
  • for the New Berlioz Complete Edition of Bärenreiter, which has been the musical basis for subsequent productions.)
  • at Naxos.comLes Troyensdescription of
  • , 12 August 2001.Les TroyensGuy Dumazert, French-language commentary on
  • Video clip of "Les Troyens" at the Mariinsky Theater

External links

  • Berlioz, Hector (1864). Les Troyens à Carthage, libretto in French. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères. Copy at Gallica.
  • Berlioz, Hector; Cairns, David, translator and editor (2002). The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-375-41391-9.
  • Berlioz, Hector (2003). Les Troyens. Grand Opéra en cinq actes, vocal score based on the Urtext of the New Berlioz Edition by Eike Wernhard. Kassel: Bärenreiter. Listings at WorldCat.
  • Cairns, David (1999). Berlioz. Volume Two. Servitude and Greatness 1832–1869. London: Allen Lane. The Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-7139-9386-8.
  • Goldberg, Louise (1988a). "Performance history and critical opinion" in Kemp 1988, pp. 181–195.
  • Goldberg, Louise (1988b). "Select list of performances (Staged and concert)" in Kemp 1988, pp. 216–227.
  • Holoman, D. Kern (1989). Berlioz. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-06778-3.
  • Kemp, Ian, editor (1988). Hector Berlioz: Les Troyens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521348133.
  • Kutsch, K. J.; Riemens, Leo (2003). Grosses Sängerlexikon (fourth edition, in German). Munich: K. G. Saur. ISBN 978-3-598-11598-1.
  • Macdonald, Hugh (1982). Berlioz, The Master Musicians Series. London: J. M. Dent. ISBN 978-0-460-03156-1.
  • Walsh, T. J. (1981). Second Empire Opera: The Théâtre Lyrique Paris 1851–1870. New York: Riverrun Press. ISBN 978-0-7145-3659-0.
  • Wolff, Stéphane (1962). L'Opéra au Palais Garnier, 1875-1962. Les oeuvres. Les Interprètes. Paris: L'Entracte. (1983 reprint: Geneva: Slatkine. ISBN 978-2-05-000214-2.)


  1. ^ Berlioz 2003.
  2. ^ MacDonald, Hugh, "Correspondence: Berlioz's Les Troyens" (January 1964). Music & Letters, 45 (1): pp. 102-103.
  3. ^ Cairns, David, "Berlioz and Virgil: A Consideration of Les Troyens as a Virgilian Opera (1968-1969). Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 95th Session: pp. 97-110.
  4. ^ Fraenkel, Gottfried S. (July 1963). "Berlioz, the Princess and Les Troyens". Music & Letters 44 (3): 249–256.  
  5. ^ Berlioz & Cairns 2002, p. 535; Goldberg 1988, p. 181.
  6. ^ Berlioz & Cairns 2002, p. 535.
  7. ^ Goldberg 1988, p. 181.
  8. ^ a b c d e Berlioz & Cairns 2002, p. 540.
  9. ^ Walsh 1981, p. 170.
  10. ^ Berlioz & Cairns 2002, pp. 535–536.
  11. ^ Macdonald, Hugh, "Les Troyens at the Théâtre-Lyrique" (September 1969). The Musical Times, 110 (1519): pp. 919-921.
  12. ^ Goldberg 1988b, pp. 216–217.
  13. ^ Goldberg 1988a, pp. 182–183.
  14. ^ Chronology of Berlioz operas Accessed 25 July 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Blyth, Alan. "Les Troyens' on disc at last. Gramophone, May 1970, p1742 & 1747.
  16. ^ Longyear, R.M., "Music Reviews: New Edition of the Complete Works. Vols. 2a, 2b, 2c: Les Troyens" (June 1971). Notes (2nd Ser.), 27 (4): pp. 792-793.
  17. ^ Hugh John Macdonald, "A Critical Edition of Berlioz's Les Troyens". Ph.D., Musicology, Cambridge University, 1968. 4 vols., 1220 pages.
  18. ^ Noel E & Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 18ème année, 1892. Bibliothèque Charpentier, Paris, 1893, p.104-109.
  19. ^ Photographs of the 1906 production, Archives digitales de la Monnaie Accessed 25 July 2013.
  20. ^ Goldberg 1988, p. 218.
  21. ^ Goldberg 1988, p. 222. (Some of these condensed productions have been referred as Bruder versions, after Lou Bruder, husband of Régine Crespin.)
  22. ^ Westrup, J.A., "Berlioz and Mr Cairns" (Letter to the Editor; 1961). The Musical Times, 102 (1416): p. 99.
  23. ^ Erik Chisholm and The Trojans' by Morag Chisholm; Musicweb, 2003"'". 
  24. ^ 734-740 (2004).20(4), The Opera Quarterly by Donald Jay Grout and Hermine Weigel Williams. A Short History of OperaTom Kaufman, Review of
  25. ^ William Bender (5 November 1973). "Epic at the Met". Time. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  26. ^[]
  27. ^ BSO Press Release, 3 April 2008
  28. ^ "A Win for the Trojans". Time. 25 March 1974. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  29. ^ Christa Ludwig as Dido at the Met Opera Archive.
  30. ^ a b Role names and descriptions, their order, and voice types are from the urtext vocal score published by Bärenreiter (Berlioz 2003, pp. III, V), except as noted.
  31. ^ Given in a prologue and 5 acts, but comprising Acts 3–5 of the complete opera. Cast from the 1864 libretto, p. 2. Characters only appearing in Acts 1 or 2 of the complete opera are marked with a dash.
  32. ^ Deloffre is identified as the conductor by Auguste de Gasperini in his review in Le Ménestrel vol. 30, no. 893 (8 November 1863). Although Almanacco Amadeus also credits "il compositore" as a conductor, Berlioz's memoirs do not mention it (Berlioz & Cairns 2002, pp. 535–541), nor do T. J. Walsh 1981; Cairns 1999; Holoman 1989; or Macdonald 1982.
  33. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). 6 December 1890" "Les troyens,. Almanacco Amadeus (Italian).
  34. ^ Edmond Cabel sang the "Song of Hylas", but it was cut shortly after the premiere as his contract only required him to sing 15 times per month. Since he was also appearing in Félicien David's La perle du Brésil, he would have had to be paid 200 francs for each additional performance. Berlioz was ill at home and not at the theatre when the cut was made. See Walsh 1981, pp. 170, 375; Kutsch and Riemens 2003, pp. 675, 1228.
  35. ^ Berlioz created this role for the prologue of Les Troyens à Carthage to narrate the events of the first two acts of the complete opera that were omitted in this version (Walsh 1981, pp. 165, 317; Berlioz 1864, pp. 2–6).
  36. ^ Jouanny was the stage name of Juan Perdolini, a former bass singer with Adolphe Adam's Opéra-National. One of his brothers was Franck-Marie (Franco Maria Perdolini), music critic for La Patrie (Berlioz 1864, p. 2; Walsh 1981, p. 317; Walsh spells the name Jouanni).
  37. ^ Berlioz 2003, p. III.
  38. ^ An October 2003 performance of Les Troyens at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and recorded on video, featured not only saxhorns from the time of Berlioz, borrowed from a private collection, but also an authentic sistrum (Adrian Corleonis, Fanfare, vol. 28, no. 4, March/April, 2005, subscription required). According to Gardiner, the collector asked as fee for the loan and use of these precious antiques only for a copy of the DVD.
  39. ^ Berlioz 2003, pp. 340–355; Berlioz 1864, p. 15.
  40. ^ Berlioz 2003, pp. X–XII.
  41. ^ Billboard – 27 May 1972 – Page 47 Vol. 84, n° 22 "Probably the most important classical recording in history was released in June 1970 – a release which 'made' both Philips and conductor Colin Davis. The first complete, uncut recording of Berlioz's opera "Les Troyens", sent record..."
  42. ^ on TroyensRecordings of
  43. ^ MacDonald, Hugh, "Record Reviews: Les Troyens" (July 1970). The Musical Times, 111 (1529): pp. 715-716.
  44. ^ review in Orpheus (August/September 1999): p.87.



Year Cast:
Opera House and Orchestra
1947 Jean Giraudeau,
Charles Cambon,
Charles Paul,
Charles Cambon,
Frans Vroons,
Colin Cunningham,
Irène Joachim,
Marisa Ferrer,
Marisa Ferrer,
Yvonne Corke
Thomas Beecham,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Theatre Chorus
(Recorded June and July)
Audio CD: Malibran Music
Cat: CDRG 162
1957 Jon Vickers,
Jess Walters,
Michael Langdon,
David Kelly,
Richard Verreau,
Dermot Troy,
Joan Carlyle,
Amy Shuard,
Blanche Thebom,
Lauris Elms
Rafael Kubelík,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
(Recorded live at Covent Garden, 20 June)
In English
Audio CD: Testament
Cat: SBT4 1443
1959-60 Richard Cassilly,
Martial Singher,
Kenneth Smith,
John Dennison,
William Lewis,
Glade Peterson,
Frances Wyatt,
Eleanor Steber,
Regina Resnik,
Regina Sarfaty
Robert Lawrence,
Orchestra and Chorus of the American Opera Society
(Recorded live, 29 December/12 January)
In English
Audio CD: Vai Audio
Cat: VAIA 1006-3
1969 Nicolai Gedda,
Robert Massard,
Robert Amis El Hage,
Boris Carmeli,
Veriano Luchetti,
Carlo Gaifa,
Rosina Cavicchiola,
Marilyn Horne,
Shirley Verrett,
Giovanna Fioroni
Georges Prêtre,
Orchestra and Chorus of the RAI
(Recorded live 11 December)
Audio CD: Arkadia
Cat: 461
1969 Jon Vickers,
Peter Glossop,
Anthony Raffell,
Roger Soyer,
Ian Partridge,
Ryland Davies,
Anne Howells,
Berit Lindholm,
Josephine Veasey,
Heather Begg
Colin Davis,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, The Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
(Rec Walthamstow Town Hall, September–October 1969)
Audio CD: Philips
Cat: 416 432-2
Cat: 6709 002 (LP)[43]
1976 Guy Chauvet,
Wolfgang Schöne,
Peter Wimberger,
Nicola Ghiuselev,
Horst R. Laubenthal,
Sona Ghazarian,
Helga Dernesch,
Christa Ludwig,
Margarita Lilowa
Gerd Albrecht,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
(Recorded live at the Vienna State Opera, 17 October)
Audio CD: Gala
Cat: GL 100.609[44]
1983 Plácido Domingo,
Allan Monk,
John Cheek,
Paul Plishka,
Douglas Ahlstedt,
Philip Creech,
Claudia Catania,
Jessye Norman,
Tatiana Troyanos,
Jocelyne Taillon
James Levine,
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
(Recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera, 4 and 8 October)
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 00440 073 4310
Laser Disc: Pioneer Artists
Cat: PA-85-137
1994 Gary Lakes,
Gino Quilico,
Michel Philippe,
Jean-Philippe Courtis,
Jean-Luc Maurette,
John Mark Ainsley,
Catherine Dubosc,
Deborah Voigt,
Françoise Pollet,
Hélène Perraguin
Charles Dutoit,
Choeur et Orchestre de l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Audio CD: Decca
Cat: 443 693-2
2000 Jon Villars,
Russell Braun,
Tigran Martirossian,
Robert Lloyd,
Ilya Lavinsky,
Toby Spence,
Gaële Le Roi,
Deborah Polaski,
Deborah Polaski,
Yvonne Naef
Sylvain Cambreling,
Orchestre de Paris, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Tölzer Knabenchor
(Recorded live at the Salzburg Festival, August)
DVD: Arthaus
Cat: 100 350/1
2000 Ben Heppner,
Peter Mattei,
Tigran Martirossian,
Stephen Milling,
Kenneth Tarver,
Toby Spence,
Isabelle Cals,
Petra Lang,
Michelle DeYoung,
Sara Mingardo
Colin Davis,
London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus
(Recorded live at the Barbican Hall, December 2000)
Audio CD: LSO Live
Cat: LSO0010
2003 Gregory Kunde,
Ludovic Tézier,
Nicolas Testé,
Laurent Naouri,
Mark Padmore,
Topi Lehtipuu,
Stéphanie d'Oustrac,
Anna Caterina Antonacci,
Susan Graham,
Renata Pokupić
John Eliot Gardiner,
Théâtre du Châtelet, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Monteverdi Choir,Chœur du Théâtre du Châtelet
(Recorded live at the Théâtre du Chatelet, October)
DVD: Opus Arte
Cat: OA 0900 D
2012 Bryan Hymel,
Fabio Capitanucci,
Ashley Holland,
Brindley Sherratt,
Ji-Min Park,
Ed Lyon,
Barbara Senator,
Anna Caterina Antonacci,
Eva-Maria Westbroek,
Hanna Hipp
Antonio Pappano,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House
(Recorded live on 5 and 8 July)
Video: Opus Arte
Cat: OA 1097 D (DVD);
OA BD7113 D (Blu-ray)

' 1970 release was the first complete recording.[41]

Colin Davis


  • La scène de Sinon
  • The original finale of Act 5


  • No. 49. Cérémonie Funèbre: "Dieux de l'oubli" (Anna, Narbal, Chœur de Prêtres de Pluton)
  • No. 50. Scène: "Pluton semble" (Didon)
  • No. 51. Chœur: "Au secours!" (Didon, Anna, Narbal, Chœur)
  • No. 52. Imprécation: "Rome! Rome!" (the same)

Third Tableau:

  • No. 45. Scène: "Va, ma sœur" (Didon, Anna)
  • No. 46. Scène: "En mer, voyez" (Didon, Iopas, Chœur)
  • No. 47. Monologue: "Je vais mourir" (Didon)
  • No. 48. Air: "Adieu, fière cité" (Didon)

Second Tableau:

  • No. 38. Chanson d'Hylas: "Vallon sonore" (Hylas, 2 Sentinelles)
  • No. 39. Récitatif et Chœur: "Préparé tout" (Panthée, Chefs troyens)
  • No. 40. Duo: "Par Bacchus" (2 Sentinelles)
  • No. 41. Récitatif mesuré et Air: "Inutiles regrets" / "Ah! quand viendra l'instant" (Énée)
  • No. 42. Scène: "Énée!" (Énée, le Spectre de Cassandre, le Spectre d'Hector, le Spectre de Chorèbe, le Spectre de Priam, Chœur d'Ombres invisibles)
  • No. 43. Scène et Chœur: "Debout, Troyens!" (Énée, Chœur)
  • No. 44. Duo et Chœur: "Errante sur tes pas" (Didon, Énée, Chœur)

First Tableau:

Act 5

  • No. 30. Récitatif: "Dites, Narbal" (Anna, Narbal)
  • No. 31. Air et Duo: "De quels revers" (the same)
  • No. 32. Marche pour l'Entrée de la Reine
  • No. 33. Ballets:
  •        a) Pas des Almées
  •        b) Danse des Esclaves
  •        c) Pas d'Esclaves Nubiennes
  • No. 34. Scène et Chant d'Iopas: "Assez, ma sœur" (Didon, Iopas)
  • No. 35. Récitatif et Quintette: "Pardonne, Iopas" (Didon, Anna, Énée, Iopas, Narbal)
  • No. 36. Récitatif et Septuor: "Mais banissons" (Ascagnes, Didon, Anna, Énée, Iopas, Narbal, Panthée, Chœur)
  • No. 37. Duo: "Nuit d'ivresse" (Didon, Énée, Mercure)

Second Tableau:

  • No. 29. Chasse Royale et Orage – Pantomime (Chœur des Nymphes, Sylvains, Faunes)

First Tableau:

Act 4

  • No. 17. Chœur: "De Carthage les cieux" (Chœur du Peuple carthaginois)
  • No. 18. Chant National: "Gloire à Didon" (the same)
  • No. 19. Récitatif et Air: "Nous avons vu finir" (Didon, the same)
  • No. 20. Entrée des Constructeurs
  • No. 21. Entrée des Matelots
  • No. 22. Entrée des Laboureurs
  • No. 23. Récitatif et Chœur: "Peuple! tous les honneurs" (Didon, Chœur)
  • No. 24. Duo: "Les chants joyeux" (Didon, Anna)
  • No. 25. Récitatif et Air: "Échappés à grand' peine" (Iopas, Didon)
  • No. 26. Marche Troyenne (in the minor mode): "J'éprouve une soudaine" (Didon)
  • No. 27. Récitatif: "Auguste Reine" (Ascagne, Didon, Panthée)
  • No. 28. Final: "J'ose à peine annoncer" (Ascagne, Didon, Anna, Iopas, Énée, Narbal, Panthée, Chœur)

Act 3

  • No. 14. Chœur-Prière: "Puissante Cybèle" (Polyxène, Chœur des Troyennes)
  • No. 15. Récitatif et Chœur: "Tous ne périront pas" (Cassandre, Polyxène, Chœur)
  • No. 16. Final: "Complices de sa gloire" (the same, un Chef Grec, Chœur des Grecs)

Second Tableau:

  • No. 12. Scène et Récitatif: "Ô lumière de Troie" (Ascagne, Énée, l'Ombre d'Hector)
  • No. 13. Récitatif et Chœur: "Quelle espérance encore" (Ascagne, Énée, Chorèbe, Panthée, Chœur des Soldats troyens)

First Tableau:

Act 2

  • No. 1. Chœur: "Après dix ans" (Chœur de la Populace troyenne)
  • No. 2. Récitatif et Air: "Les Grecs ont disparu" (Cassandre)
  • No. 3. Duo: "Quand Troie éclat" (Cassandre, Chorèbe)
  • No. 4. Marche et Hymne: "Dieux protecteurs" (Chœur)
  • No. 5. Combat de Ceste – Pas de Lutteurs
  • No. 6. Pantomime: Andromaque et son fils (Andromaque, Astyanax, Cassandre, Chœur)
  • No. 7. Récit: "Du peuple et des soldats" (Énée)
  • No. 8. Otetto et Double Chœur: "Châtiment effroyable" (Ascagne, Cassandre, Hécube, Énée, Helenus, Chorèbe, Panthée, Priam, Chœur)
  • No. 9. Recitatif et Chœur: "Que la déesse nous protège" (the same)
  • No. 10. Air: "Non, je ne verrai pas" (Cassandre)
  • No. 11. Final: Marche Troyenne (Cassandre, Chœur)

Act 1

The list of musical numbers is from the urtext vocal score.[40]

Musical numbers

Didon then stabs herself with Énée's sword, to the horror of her people. But at the moment of her death, she has one last vision: Carthage will be destroyed, and Rome will be "immortal". The Carthaginians then utter one final curse on Énée and his people, vowing vengeance for his abandonment of Didon, as the opera ends.

A sacrificial pyre with Énée's relics has been built. Narbal and Anna expound curses on Énée to suffer a humiliating death in battle (Dieux de l'oubli, dieux de Ténare – "Gods of oblivion, gods of Tenarus"). Didon then ascends the pyre (Pluton... semble m'être propice – Pluto... seems to be propitious"). She removes her veil and throws it on Énée's toga (D'un malheureux amour, funestes gages – "You, sad pledges of an unhappy love"). She has a vision of a future African warrior, Hannibal, who will rise and attack Rome to avenge her.

Press illustration of the last act (1863)

Scene 3: The palace gardens

Alone, she resolves to die (Je vais mourir – "I am going to die"), and after expressing a final love for Énée, prepares to bid her city farewell (Adieu, fière cité – "Farewell, proud city").

The crowd has seen the Trojans set sail. Iopas conveys the news to Didon. In a rage, she demands that the Carthaginians give chase and destroy the Trojans' fleet, and wishes that she had destroyed the Trojans upon their arrival. She then decides to offer sacrifice, including destroying the Trojans' gifts to her and hers to them.

Didon asks Anna to plead with Énée one last time to stay. Anna acknowledges blame for encouraging the love between her sister and Énée. Didon angrily counters that if Énée truly loved her, he would defy the gods, but then asks her to plead with for a few days' additional stay.

Scene 2: Didon's apartment at dawn

Didon's apartment (1863)

Didon then appears, appalled at Énée's attempt to leave in secret, but still in love with him. Énée pleads the messages from the gods to move on, but Didon will have none of this. She pronounces a curse on him as she leaves.

Énée then comes on stage, singing of his despair at the gods' portents and warnings to set sail for Italy, and also of unhappiness at his betrayal of Didon with this news. The ghosts of Priam, Chorèbe, Hector and Cassandre appear and relentlessly urge Énée to proceed on to Italy. Énée gives in and realizes that he must obey the gods' commands, but also realizes his cruelty and ingratitude to Didon as a result. He then orders his comrades to prepare to sail that morning, before sunrise.

Hylas sings his song of longing for home, alone. Two sentries mockingly comment that he will never see his homeland again. Panthée and the Trojan chieftains discuss the gods' angry signs at their delay in sailing for Italy. The sentries remark that they have good lives in Carthage and do not want to leave.

Scene 1: The harbour of Carthage

Act 5

She then asks Énée for more tales of Troy. Énée reveals that after some persuading, Andromaque eventually married Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, who killed Hector, Andromache's earlier husband. Didon then feels resolved regarding her lingering feelings about her late husband. At one point, Ascagne slips Sichée's ring from Didon's finger. Didon retrieves it, but then forgets about it later. Alone, Didon and Énée then sing a love duet. At the end of the act, the god Mercury appears and strikes Énée's shield, then calls out three times, "Italy!"

Énée et Didon by Guérin (1815).

After Didon's entry, and dances from the Egyptian dancing girls, the slaves, and the Nubian slave girls, Iopas sings his song of the fields, at the queen's request.

The Numidians have been beaten back, and both Narbal and Anna are relieved at this. However, Narbal worries that Didon has been neglecting the management of the state, distracted by her love for Énée. Anna dismisses such concerns and says that this indicates that Énée would be an excellent king for Carthage. Narbal reminds Anna, however, that the gods have called Énée's final destiny to be in Italy. Anna replies that there is no stronger god than love.

Scene 2: The gardens of Didon by the shore

Gardens of Didon by the shore (1863)

This scene is a pantomime with primarily instrumental accompaniment, set in a forest with a cave in the background. A small stream flows from a crag and merges with a natural basin bordered with rushes and reeds. Two naiads appear and disappear, but return to bathe in the basin. Hunting horns are heard in the distance, and huntsmen with dogs pass by as the naiads hide in the reeds. Ascanius gallops across the stage on horseback. Didon and Énée have been separated from the rest of the hunting party. As a storm breaks, the two take shelter in the cave. At the climax of the storm, nymphs with dishevelled hair run to-and-fro over the rocks, gesticulating wildly. They break out in wild cries of "a-o" (sopranos and contraltos) and are joined by fauns, sylvans, and satyrs. The stream becomes a torrent, and waterfalls pour forth from the boulders, as the chorus intones "Italie! Italie! Italie!". A tree is hit by lightning, explodes and catches fire, as it falls to the ground. The satyrs, fauns, and sylvans pick up the flaming branches and dance with them in their hands, then disappear with the nymphs into the depths of the forest. The scene is slowly obscured by thick clouds, but as the storm subsides, the clouds lift and dissipate.[39]

Scene 1: Royal Hunt and Storm

Act 4

Narbal then comes to tell Didon that Iarbas and his army are attacking the fields surrounding Carthage and are marching on the city. But Carthage does not have enough weapons to defend itself. Énée then reveals his true identity and offers the services of his people to help Carthage. Didon accepts the offer, and Énée entrusts Ascagne to Didon's care. The Carthaginians and Trojans then prepare for battle against the Numidians.

In private after these ceremonies, Didon and Anna then discuss love. Anna urges Didon to remarry, but Didon insists on honoring the memory of her late husband Sichée (Sychaeus). Iopas then enters to tell of an unknown fleet that has arrived in port. Recalling her own wandering on the seas, Didon bids that these strangers be welcome. Ascagne enters, presents the saved treasure of Troy, and relates the Trojans' story. Didon acknowledges that she knows of this situation. Panthée then tells of the ultimate destiny of the Trojans to found a new city in Italy. During this scene, Énée is disguised as an ordinary sailor.

The Carthaginians and their queen, Didon, are celebrating the prosperity that they have achieved in the past seven years since fleeing from Tyre to found a new city. Didon, however, is concerned about Iarbas, the Numidian king, not least because he has proposed a political marriage with her. The Carthaginians swear their defence of Didon, and the builders, sailors and farmers offer tribute to Didon.

Didon's throne-room at Carthage

Set design for the throne room (1863)

Act 3

Several of the Trojan women are praying at the altar of Vesta/Cybele for their soldiers to receive divine aid. Cassandre reports that Énée and other Trojan warriors have rescued Priam's palace treasure and relieved people at the citadel. She prophesies that Énée and the survivors will found a new Troy in Italy. But she also says that Chorèbe is dead, and resolves to die. The other women acknowledge the correctness of Cassandre's prophecies and their error in dismissing her. Cassandre then calls upon the Trojan women to join her in death, to prevent being defiled by the invading Greeks. One group of women admits to fear of death, and Cassandre dismisses them from her sight. The remaining women unite with Cassandre in determination to die. A Greek captain observes the women during this scene with admiration for their courage. Greek soldiers then come on the scene, demanding the Trojan treasure from the women. Cassandre defiantly mocks the soldiers, then suddenly stabs herself. Polyxène takes the same dagger and does likewise. The remaining women scorn the Greeks as too late to find the treasure, and commit mass suicide, to the soldiers' horror. Cassandre summons one last cry of "Italy!" before collapsing, dead.

Scene 2: Palace of Priam

With fighting going on in the background, the ghost of Hector visits Énée and warns him to flee Troy for Italy, where he will build a new Troy. After Hector fades, Panthée conveys the news about the Greeks hidden in the horse. Ascagne appears with news of further destruction. At the head of a band of soldiers, Chorèbe urges Énée to take up arms for battle. All resolve to defend Troy to the death.

Scene 1: Palace of Énée

Before the act proper has started, the Greek soldiers hidden in the wooden horse have come out and begun to destroy Troy and its citizens.

Act 2

Énée then rushes on to tell of the devouring of the priest Laocoön by a sea serpent, after he had warned the Trojans to burn the horse. Énée interprets this as a sign of the goddess Athene's anger at the sacrilege. Against Cassandre's futile protests, Priam orders the horse to be brought within the city of Troy and placed next to the temple of Pallas Athene. There is a sound of what seems to be the clashing of arms from within the horse, but the Trojans, in their delusion, interpret it as a happy omen. Cassandre has watched the procession in despair, and as the act ends, resigns herself to death beneath the walls of Troy.

The Trojans are celebrating apparent deliverance from ten years of siege. They see the large wooden horse left by the Greeks, which they presume to be an offering to Pallas Athene. Unlike all the other Trojans, however, Cassandre is mistrustful of the situation. She foresees that she will not live to marry her fiancé, Chorèbe. Chorèbe appears and urges Cassandre to forget her misgivings. But her prophetic vision clarifies, and she foresees the utter destruction of Troy. When Andromache silently walks in, the celebration halts.

At the abandoned Greek camp outside the walls of Troy

Act 1

Detail from The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Domenico Tiepolo (1773).


Berlioz specified the following instruments:[37]


Role[30] Voice type[30] Premiere Cast,
(Acts 3-5 only)[31]
4 November 1863
(Conductor: Adolphe Deloffre)[32]
Premiere Cast,
(complete opera)
6–7 December 1890
Felix Mottl)[33]
Énée (Aeneas), Trojan hero, son of Venus and Anchises tenor Jules-Sébastien Monjauze Alfred Oberländer
Chorèbe (Chorebus), a young prince from Asia, betrothed to Cassandra baritone  – Marcel Cordes
Panthée (Pantheus), Trojan priest, friend of Aeneas bass Péront Carl Nebe
Narbal, minister to Dido bass Jules-Émile Petit Fritz Plank
Iopas, Tyrian poet to Dido's court tenor De Quercy Hermann Rosenberg
Ascagne (Ascanius), Aeneas' young son (15 years) soprano Mme Estagel Auguste Elise Harlacher-Rupp
Cassandre (Cassandra), Trojan prophetess, daughter of Priam mezzo-soprano  – Luise Reuss-Belce
Didon (Dido), Queen of Carthage, widow of Sychaeus, prince of Tyre
mezzo-soprano Anne-Arsène Charton-Demeur Pauline Mailhac
Anna, Dido's sister contralto Marie Dubois Christine Friedlein
Supporting roles:
Hylas, a young Phrygian sailor tenor or contralto Edmond Cabel[34] Wilhelm Guggenbühler
Priam, King of Troy bass  –
A Greek chieftain bass  – Fritz Plank
Ghost of Hector, Trojan hero, son of Priam bass
Helenus, Trojan priest, son of Priam tenor  – Hermann Rosenberg
Two Trojan soldiers basses Guyot, Teste
Mercure (Mercury), a God baritone or bass
A Priest of Pluto bass
Polyxène (Polyxena), sister of Cassandra soprano  – Annetta Heller
Hécube (Hecuba), Queen of Troy soprano  – Pauline Mailhac
Andromaque (Andromache), Hector's widow silent  –
Astyanax, her son (8 years) silent  –
Le Rapsode, narrator of the Prologue[35] spoken Jouanny[36]  –
Chorus: Trojans, Greeks, Tyrians and Carthaginians; Nymphs, Satyrs, Fauns, and Sylvans; Invisible spirits


In the history of French music, Les Troyens stands out as a grand opera that avoided the shallow glamour of Meyerbeer and Halévy, but therefore paid the price of long neglect. In our own time the opera has finally come to be seen as one of the greatest operas of the 19th century. There are several recordings of the work, and it is performed with increasing frequency.

Only knowing the work from a piano score, the British critic W.J. Turner declared that Les Troyens was "the greatest opera ever written" in his 1934 book on Berlioz, much preferring it to the vastly more popular works of Richard Wagner. American critic B. H. Haggin heard in the work Berlioz's "arrestingly individual musical mind operating in, and commanding attention with, the use of the [Berlioz] idiom with assured mastery and complete adequacy to the text's every demand". David Cairns described the work as "an opera of visionary beauty and splendor, compelling in its epic sweep, fascinating in the variety of its musical invention... it recaptures the tragic spirit and climate of the ancient world." Hugh Macdonald said of it:

Critical evaluation

Les Troyens was staged again in 1990 for the opening of the new Bastille Opéra in Paris. It was a partial success, because the new theatre could not be quite ready on opening night, which caused much trouble during rehearsals. The performance had several cuts, authorised by Berlioz, including some dances in the third act. A full staged version conducted by Charles Dutoit and produced by Francesca Zambello took place at the Los Angeles Opera on September 14th 1991 with Carol Neblett, Nadine Secunde and Gary Lakes. In 1993, Charles Dutoit conducted the Canadian Premiere of "Les Troyens" in a full concert version with the Montreal Symphony and Deborah Voigt, Françoise Pollet and Gary Lakes which was subsequently recorded by DECCA. To mark the bicentenary of Berlioz's birth in 2003, Les Troyens was revived in productions at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (conducted by John Eliot Gardiner), Amsterdam (conducted by Edo de Waart), and at the Met (with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson as Dido, conducted by Levine). The Met production, by Francesca Zambello, was revived in the 2012–13 season with Susan Graham as Dido, Deborah Voigt as Cassandra, and Marcello Giordani and Bryan Hymel as Énée, conducted by Fabio Luisi. During June and July of 2015 the San Francisco Opera presented the opera in a new production directed by Sir David McVicar that originated at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It featured Susan Graham as Dido, Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandra, and Bryan Hymel as Énée, conducted by Donald Runnicles.

The first complete American production of Les Troyens (with Crespin as Didon) was given in February 1972 by Sarah Caldwell with her Opera Company of Boston, at the Aquarius Theater.[27] In 1973, Rafael Kubelík conducted the first Metropolitan Opera staging of Les Troyens, in the opera's first performances in New York City and the third staging in the United States.[28] Shirley Verrett was both Cassandre and Didon at the Metropolitan Opera premiere, with Jon Vickers as Énée. Christa Ludwig had been cast as Didon but was ill at the time of the premiere; she sang the role in the ten subsequent performances.[29] Les Troyens opened the Met centenary season in 1983 under James Levine with Plácido Domingo, Jessye Norman as Cassandre and Tatiana Troyanos as Didon.


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