Major Operas | Les troyens by Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic
Premiered: 1890, Karlsruhe
Libretto by the composer, after the Aeneid by Virgil
The Trojans celebrate peace and admire the wooden horse left by the Greeks after the siege. Cassandre (Cassandra), King Priam’s daughter, forsees the fall of Troy. Her husband Chorèbe (Coroebus) urges her to join the celebrations, but she begs him to flee. Énée (Aeneas) reveals that sea serpents have killed the priest Laocöon, after he suggested destroying the horse. Fearing the fury of the gods, the Trojans bring the horse into the city.
Hector’s ghost tells Énée to leave for Italy to found a new Troy. Panthée, Énée’s friend, enters with the news that Greeks have burst out of the horse and are sacking the city. In the palace, Cassandre tells the Trojan women of Énée’s quest. She prepares to kill herself, urging the others to do the same to save themselves from the Greeks. Some refuse and are driven away; the others declare their right to die free. The Greeks enter in search of the treasure, which Énée has taken; they are greeted by a mass suicide.
In her palace, Didon (Dido) celebrates the anniversary of the founding of Carthage. Her sister Anna assures her she will find love again. The poet Iopas brings news of the shipwrecked Trojans and Didon welcomes them. Énée, hearing that Carthage is to be attacked by Numidians, offers to assist in battle; Didon falls in love with him.
The royal hunt is halted by a storm. Didon and Énée seek shelter in a cave. Didon’s advisor, Narbal, complains to Anna that since the Numidian battle the queen is neglecting her duties. He is also uneasy of Didon’s affair, since Énée has to leave for Italy. Didon enters with Énée, requesting tales of Troy and finding comfort in his words. They declare their love for each other until interrupted by Mercury, who reminds Énée of his destiny.
The Trojans are besieged by omens and ghosts, urging them to leave for Italy. Énée reluctantly tells Didon that he must leave. She entreats him not to go, but he is resolved, especially when the Trojan ghosts appear. Didon curses him. Later she asks Anna to persuade Énée to stay, but the Trojans have set sail. Furious, she orders a pyre to be built. Didon burns the relics of Énée’s visit. A vision of the glory of Rome appears. Predicting that Hannibal will avenge her, Didon stabs herself. The Carthaginians swear vengeance on Énée and his race.
Les troyens, London Symphony Orchestra; Colin Davis, conductor; LSO Live LSO0010; Soloists: Petra Lang (Cassandre), Michelle DeYoung (Didon), Sara Mingardo (Anna), Ben Heppner (Enée), Kenneth Tarver (Iopas), Toby Spence (Hylas), Peter Mattei (Chorèbe), Stephen Milling (Narbal)
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