Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Les Troyens - Berlioz
(English title:The Trojans)
An Opera by Hector Berlioz
PART I. "LA PRISE DE TROIE"
THE CAPTURE OF TROY
Opera in three acts, by Berlioz. Words by the composer, based upon a scenario furnished by Liszts friend, the Princess Caroline Sayn-Wittgenstein. Produced, November 6, 1890, in Karlsruhe, under the direction of Felix Mottl.
Time: 1183 B.C.
Place: The Trojan Plain.
Act I. The Greek camp before Troy. It has been deserted by the Greeks. The people of Troy, rejoicing at what they believe to be the raising of the siege, are bustling about the camp. Many of them, however, are standing amazed about a gigantic wooden horse. There is only one person who does not rejoice, Cassandra, Priams daughter, whose clairvoyant spirit foresees misfortune. But no one believes her dire prophecies, not even her betrothed, Choroebus, whom she implores in vain to flee.
Act II. In a grove near the walls of the city of the Trojan people, with their princes at their head, are celebrating the return of peace. Andromache, however, sees no happiness for herself, since Hector has fallen. Suddenly Aeneas hurries in with the news that the priest Laocoon, who had persisted in seeing in the wooden horse only a stratagem of the Greeks, has been strangled by a serpent. Athena must be propitiated; the horse must be taken into the city, to the sacred Palladium, and there set up for veneration. Of no avail is Cassandras wailing, when the goddess has so plainly indicated her displeasure.
Act III. Aeneas is sleeping in his tent. A distant sound of strife awakens him. Hectors Ghost appears to him. Troy is lost; far away, to Italy, must Aeneas go, there to found a new kingdom. The ghost disappears. The priest, Pantheus, rushes in, bleeding from wounds. He announces that Greeks have come out of the belly of the horse and have opened the gates of the city to the Greek army. Troy is in flames. Aeneas goes forth to place himself at the head of his men.
The scene changes to the vestal sanctuary in Priams palace. To the women gathered in prayer Cassandra announces that Aeneas has succeeded in saving the treasure and covering a retreat to Mount Ida. But her Choroebus has fallen and she desires to live no longer. Shall she become the slave of a Greek? She paints the fate of the captive woman in such lurid colours that they decide to go to death with her. Just as the Greeks rush in, the women stab themselves, and grief overcomes even the hardened warriors.
PART II. "LES TROYENS A CARTHAGE"
THE TROJANS IN CARTHAGE
Opera in five acts. Music by Berlioz. Words by the composer. Produced, Paris, November 4, 1863, when it failed completely. Revived, 1890, in Karlsruhe, under the direction of Felix Mottl. Mottls performances in Karlsruhe, in 1890, of "La Prise de Troie" and "Les Troyens à Carthage" constituted the first complete production of "Les Troyens."
Time: 1183 B.C.
Act I. In the summer-house of her palace Dido tells her retainers that the savage Numidian King, Jarbas, has asked for her hand, but she has decided to live only for the memory of her dead husband. Today, however, shall be devoted to festive games. The lyric poet Jopas enters and announces the approach of strangers, who have escaped from the dangers of the sea. They arrive and Ascanius, son of Aeneas, begs entertainment for a few days for himself and his companions. This Dido gladly grants them. Her Minister, Narbal, rushes in. The Numidian king has invaded the country. Who will march against him? Aeneas, who had concealed himself in disguise among his sailors, steps forth and offers to defend the country against the enemy.
Act II. A splendid festival is in progress in Didos garden in honour of the victor, Aeneas. Dido loves Aeneas, who tells her of Andromache, and how, in spite of her grief over Hector, she has laid aside her mourning and given her hand to another. Why should Dido not to likewise? Night closes in, and under its cover both pledge their love and faith.
Has Aeneas forgotten his task? To remind him, Mercury appears and strikes resoundingly on the weapons that have been laid aside, while invisible voices call out to Aeneas: "Italia!"
Act III. Public festivities follow the betrothal of Dido and Aeneas. But Didos faithful Minister knows that, although Aeneas is a kingly lover, it is the will of the gods that the Trojans proceed to Italy; and that to defy the gods is fatal.
Meanwhile the destiny of the lovers is fulfilled. During a hunt they seek shelter from a thunderstorm in a cave. There they seal their love compact. (This scene is in pantomime.)
Act IV. The Trojans are incensed that Aeneas places love ahead of duty. They have determined to seek the land of their destiny without him. Finally Aeneas awakes from his infatuation and, when the voices of his illustrious dead remind him of his duty, he resolves, in spite of Didos supplications, to depart at once.
Act V. Early morning brings to Dido in her palace the knowledge that she has lost Aeneas forever. She decides not to survive her loss. On the sea beach she orders a huge pyre erected. All the love tokens of the faithless one are fed to the flames. She herself ascends the pyre. Her vision takes in the great future of Carthage and the greater one of Rome. Then she throws herself on her lovers sword.