Troyens, Les (The Trojans)
  • Hector Berlioz. Opéra in five acts. 1858.
  • Libretto by the composer, based on Virgil’s Aeneid.
  • First performance of Acts 3–5, as Les Troyens à Carthage (The Trojans at Carthage), at the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, on 4th November 1863.
  • First performance of the complete work in Karlsruhe on 6th December 1890.
CHARACTERS

Énée (Aeneas), Trojan hero, son of Venus & Anchises

tenor

Cassandre (Cassandra), Trojan prophetess daughter of Priam

mezzo-soprano

Didon (Dido), Queen of Carthage, widow of Sychaeus, prince of Tyre

mezzo-soprano

Chorèbe (Coroebus), a young prince from Asia, betrothed to Cassandra

baritone

Anna, sister of Dido

contralto

Narbal, minister to Dido

bass

Iopas, Tyrian poet at Dido’s court

tenor

Hylas, a young Phrygian sailor

tenor

Panthée (Panthous), Trojan priest, friend of Aeneas

bass

Ascagne (Ascanius), son of Aeneas

soprano

L’Ombre d’Hector (Ghost of Hector), Trojan hero, son of Priam

tenor

Hécube (Hecuba), his wife

mezzo-soprano

Sinon, a Greek spy

tenor

Two Trojan Soldiers

basses

A Greek Captain

bass

Mercure (Mercury)

bass

Hélène (Helenus), a Trojan priest, son of Priam

tenor

A Priest of Pluto

bass

Polyxène (Polyxena), sister of Cassandra

soprano

Andromaque (Andromache), widow of Hector

silent role

Astyanax, her son

silent role

The Greeks have seemingly departed, and the Trojans, under siege for ten years, follow the treacherous advice of Sinon and drag the Wooden Horse into their city. Cassandra foresees what will happen. At night the ghost of Hector urges Aeneas to flee. Troy is destroyed, but Aeneas escapes to found a new Troy in the West. The Trojan women kill themselves, rather than fall captive to the Greeks. In Carthage Dido is established as queen of a prosperous city. Aeneas and his men arrive and help to protect the city from the attack of Iarbas. Returning victorious, Aeneas joins Dido in a hunt, during the course of which they shelter from a storm, while the voice of wood-nymphs still insist on Italy as the destination of Aeneas, reminding him of his duty. Dido and Aeneas sing of their love, but the god Mercury reminds him of Italy. Trojan ghosts appear to urge Aeneas on and he obeys, setting sail. Dido, abandoned, mounts her funeral pyre, calls for future revenge from Hannibal and kills herself with the sword of Aeneas, seeing, as she dies, the future power of Rome.

Berlioz had recourse to Virgil’s Aeneid, a poem with which he had been familiar from boyhood, for the basis of his opera, a work that makes considerable demands on resources, although it should not last more than four-and-a-half hours. It is a spectacular work and in its earlier history was divided into two parts, the first dealing with the capture of Troy and the second the events in Carthage. Most familiar of all to audiences is the orchestral Royal Hunt and Storm from the fourth act. The epic work is richly orchestrated, with offstage effects that include groups of instruments set apart to give the impression of an approaching and passing procession in the first act, with an offstage group of sax-horns. Above all else is the grandiose historical perception of the destiny of Aeneas and the imperial future of Rome, a reflection of the concept behind his literary source.