Personalities | Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic | Opera

1803–69, French

The French composer Louis-Hector Berlioz, who once wrote that the opera houses of his time were too large, did a splendid job of filling their auditoria with the mighty sound of epic opera. His opera output was small, consisting of only five completed works, but their impact transcended mere numbers. Berlioz’s first surviving opera, Benvenuto Cellini (1837) based on the life of the famous goldsmith and engraver of Renaissance Italy, was a failure. However, a later work, the two-part Les troyens (‘The Trojans’, 1856–58 and 1860–63), for which Berlioz wrote both words and music, was an epic fully worthy of the name. Les troyens, set during the Trojan War in the twelfth century bc, combined impressive spectacle, lyricism and classical grandeur with heroic tragedy on the most monumental scale possible. Berlioz had a fascination for the ancient Roman poet Virgil (70–19 bc), whose account of the Trojan War in his Aeneid was used as the basis for Les troyens. Berlioz, however, was also capable of the delicate touch and demonstrated this in an opera that he himself described as ‘a caprice written with the point of a needle’ – his Béatrice et Bénédict (1862), based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Introduction | Early Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | Benvenuto Cellini by Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic
Major Operas | Les troyens by Louis-Hector Berlioz | Early Romantic
Personalities | François-Adrien Boieldieu | Early Romantic | Opera
Performance | First Performance of Les Troyens | Early Romantic | Opera


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