Opera Scotland

Troyens The Trojans; Les Troyens

Part I: The Fall of Troy; La Prise de Troie.

Part II: The Trojans at Carthage; Les Troyens á Carthage.

 

Music

Hector Berlioz (born La Cote St André, Isère, 11 December 1803; died Paris, 8 March 1869)

Text

The composer.

Source

Epic poem The Aeneid by Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro 70-19 BC).

 

Premieres

First performance of Part 2: Paris (Théâtre Lyrique), 4 November 1863.

First performance over two evenings: Karlsruhe (Hoftheater), 5 & 6 December 1890.

First performance in UK: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 18 & 19 March 1935.

First performance in UK in one evening (abridged): London (Covent Garden), 6 June 1957.

First performance in UK in one evening (complete): Glasgow (King's Theatre), 3 May 1969.

First Performance in Scotland: As above (1935).

Scottish Opera première: As above (1969).

 

Background

The Trojans is a French grand opera in five acts, following the tradition established by an earlier generation of composers including Rossini, Meyerbeer and Halévy. It therefore contains large choral sections, complicated action sequences and important sections of ballet which, in this case, perhaps unusually, are integral to the plot. It is not significantly longer that those earlier works or the lengthier operas of Verdi and Wagner. However managements have sometimes taken advantage of the fact that the first two acts are set in Troy and the last three in Carthage to emphasise this as though they were two separate operas. This is not the case, and the division only arose because Berlioz was unable to arrange a full performance and was faced with the choice between hearing a performance of the Carthage acts or nothing. The musical contrast between the tragic end of Act 2 and the celebrations which open Act 3 is so marked that even the customary insertion of a lengthy dinner interval is not an ideal solution, because of the damaging break in concentration. Only the direst of commercial requirements should be used to justify the division of the work. Sometimes managements have imposed heavy cuts on the opera in order to perform it in one evening. This is probably the worst solution of all - after all, we stopped imposing such brutal cuts on the accepted masterpieces of Verdi and Wagner some years ago.

 

Main Characters

Four characters appear in both sections:

Aeneas, a Trojan Prince (tenor)

Ascanius, his son (soprano)

Pantheus, a Trojan priest (bass)

Ghost of Hector (bass)

In the Trojan acts we see:

Cassandra, a prophetess (soprano)

Choroebus, her fiancé (baritone)

In the Carthage acts we meet:

Dido, Queen of Carthage (mezzo-soprano)

Anna, her sister (contralto)

Narbal, her adviser (bass)

 

Plot Summary

The opera commences during the last days of the Trojan War. Hector, Achilles and Patroclus are all dead. The Trojans awake one morning, after ten years under siege, to find that the Greeks have disappeared overnight, leaving a large wooden horse on the beach, apparently as an offering. The people rejoice except for Cassandra, who has a presentiment of doom for the city and for herself. Even Choroebus thinks she is mad. The celebrations are interrupted by Andromache and her son, laying flowers on the altar, and then by Aeneas, who tells how Laocoön, suspicious of a Greek trap, threw his javelin at the horse, but was immediately eaten by monstrous sea serpents. Aeneas, convinced of the Gods' involvement in this, persuades the people to drag the horse into the city. Later, sleeping in his tent, Aeneas is visited by Hector's ghost, who tells him the city has been sacked and he must take Ascanius and set up a new city elsewhere. Pantheus confirms that the Greeks have won and that Priam is dead. In the temple, Cassandra tells the women of Troy that all is lost - Aeneas has escaped, but Choroebus is dead. The only way for the women to avoid dishonour is mass suicide. She stabs herself, and the other women follow suit.

The scene changes to Carthage, where the building of the city is being celebrated. Anna tries to persuade her sister, the widowed queen Dido, to remarry. Iopas brings in the newly-arrived Trojans, just as news breaks that Carthaginian territory is under attack by the Numidians. Aeneas leads his men to help defend Carthage. After this victory, a great hunt occurs, and then a celebration at the palace when Aeneas relates the defeat of Troy and his subsequent travels. It becomes clear that Dido has fallen for Aeneas. However, as they leave together, the god Mercury makes it clear that Aeneas must resume his travels towards Italy. His men prepare to leave, though some would be happy to stay in Carthage. Aeneas is torn between his love for Dido and his destiny, but is visited by the ghosts of Priam, Hector, Cassandra and Choroebus, who convince him to go. He is confronted on the quayside by a furious Dido who berates him for betraying her. But he is resolute, and joins his men on board. On her return to the palace, Dido is in despair, and on hearing of the fleet's departure, she resolves on suicide. She curses the Trojans and predicts the rise of a Carthaginian hero who will avenge her. She then stabs herself, but as she dies is given a final vision - of the ultimate victory over Carthage by the Romans.

The Cast

Aeneas
 a Trojan commander, son of Venus and Anchises (Énée)
Andromache
 widow of Hector
Anna
 Dido's sister
Ascanius
 son of Aeneas (Ascagne)
Astyanax
 son of Hector and Andromache
Cassandra
 a prophetess (Cassandre)
Choroebus
 a young Asian, fiancé of Cassandra (Chorèbe)
Dido
 Queen of Carthage, widow of Sichaeus, Prince of Tyre (Didon)
First Soldier
 
Ghost of Cassandra
 
Ghost of Choroebus
 
Ghost of Hector
 Priam's eldest son
Ghost of Priam
 
Greek Captain
 
Hecuba
 Queen of Troy, wife of Priam (Hécube)
Helenus
 a Trojan priest, son of Priam
Hylas
 a young Phrygian sailor
Iopas
 a Tyrien minstrel at Dido's court
Mercury
 Mercure
Narbal
 adviser to Dido
Pantheus
 a Trojan priest and friend of Aeneas (Panthée)
Polyxena
 daughter of Priam
Priam
 King of Troy
Second Soldier
 
Trojan Soldier
 

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha