Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Life of Hector Berlioz
This composer, born Côte-Saint-André, near Grenoble, December 11, 1803; died Paris, March 9, 1869, has had comparatively little influence upon opera considered simply as such. But, as a musician whose skill in instrumentation, and knowledge of the individual tone quality of every instrument in the orchestra amounted to positive genius, his influence on music in general was great. In this symphonies "Episode de la Vie dun Artiste" (characterized by him as a symphonie phantastique), its sequel, "Lelio, ou la Retour à la Vie," "Harold en Italie," in which Harold is impersonated by the viola, and the symphonie dramatique, "Romeo et Juliette," he proved the feasibility of producing, by means of orchestral music, the effect of narrative, personal characterization and the visualization of dramatic action, as well as of scenery and material objects. He thus became the founder of "program music."
"La Damnation de Faust," in its original form, is not an opera but a dramatic cantata. First performed in 1846, it was not made over into an opera until 1893, twenty-four years after the composers death.