Hector Berlioz

Les Troyens

Opera

Hector Berlioz' Les Troyens counts among the biggest pieces of music theatre in the entire history of opera. The demands it makes on each opera house are monumental - not least regarding the cast. No wonder Les Troyens are rarely found on international opera schedules and no wonder its performances have festival character. Basing his opera on Virgil's Aeneid, Berlioz created a piece, which places the Trojans at the centre of the action - as the title already suggests. After almost 40 years the opera enters the schedule of the Wiener Staatsoper once again!

17 October 2018
Wednesday
17:30 - 22:45
2 intermissions
Prices G add to calendar Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal

Cast | 17.10.2018

Conductor Alain Altinoglu
Director David McVicar
Production assistant Leah Hausman
Set design Es Devlin
Umsetzung Bühne Will Harding
Costumes Moritz Junge
Lighting Wolfgang Goebbel
Umsetzung Licht Pia Virolainen
Choreography Lynne Page
Choreographische Einstudierung Gemma Payne
Production assistant Marie Lambert
Assistant costume designer Helen Johnson
 
Enée Brandon Jovanovich
Chorèbe Adam Plachetka
Panthée Peter Kellner
Narbal Jongmin Park
Iopas Paolo Fanale
Ascagne Rachel Frenkel
Cassandre Monika Bohinec
Didon Joyce DiDonato
Anna Szilvia Vörös
 

Details

Berlioz’s libretto is drawn from Books I, II and IV of Virgil’s Aeneid.

The Trojan War originated in the quarrels of both gods and mortals but began in earnest when Paris, Prince of Troy, carried off Helen, the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.
In league with his brother, King Agamemnon of Mycenae, and many other Greek leaders and heroes, Menelaus set sail for Troy. Beginning with the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s youngest daughter Iphigenia – to placate the gods and propitiate favourable winds for the Greek fleet – much blood was spilled on both sides. Hector, eldest son of King Priam of Troy, has been killed by the Greek hero, Achilles. His corpse has been tied to Achilles’ chariot and dragged repeatedly round the walls of the city. Achilles, in turn, has been slain by Paris, and his grave lies in the plain outside the walls of Troy.

ACT I

The Greek armies have besieged the city of Troy for ten years but have suddenly abandoned camp, withdrawn their ships and vanished. On the beach beyond the city walls they have left a vast wooden horse. The Trojan people joyously emerge from the city to raid the deserted encampment before rushing off to marvel at the horse.
Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and priestess of Vesta, appears. She is a prophetess, but one cursed at birth with a gift of second sight that no one will heed or believe. Now she foresees the disaster that will engulf Troy and its people. Her betrothed, Coroebus, Prince of Phrygia and an ally of Troy, comes to beg her to leave dark prophecy and take part in the people’s rejoicing. Cassandra is seized by a sudden, terrifying vision of Troy’s destruction and Coroebus’ own death. She beseeches him to leave the city while there is still time but he refuses to abandon her. Resigned, she gives him her hand. Death, she says, will prepare their marriage bed. A procession emerges from the city led by Priam, Queen Hecuba, their daughters and the priests and warriors of Troy. A hymn of thanksgiving is sung and offerings are laid at the altar of the gods. The rejoicing is interrupted by the silent entrance of Hector’s widow, Andromache, and her son, Astyanax, both in mourning. Cassandra, unheeded, predicts that Andromache shall weep more bitter tears before the next sunrise. Suddenly Aeneas, chief of Troy’s warriors, rushes in to describe the terrible death of the priest Laocoön. Believing the horse to be a trap laid by the Greeks, the priest hurled his spear into its flank and urged the people to burn it. At once, two monstrous serpents emerged from the sea and tore him to pieces. The Trojans are appalled and terrified, but Aeneas interprets the portent as the just anger of the goddess Pallas Athena at Laocoön’s sacrilege. The horse is surely an offering left by the defeated Greeks in honour of Troy’s goddess. Priam orders the walls to be breached so that the horse can be dragged into the city and placed before the temple. Cassandra watches despairingly as the people pull the horse in triumphant procession through the walls. Suddenly a sound like the clash of arms is heard from within the monster’s belly, but the crowd deliriously interpret this as a happy omen and the procession moves on. Cassandra foretells her own death beneath the ruins of Troy.

ACT II

Aeneas lies asleep. Outside, the noise of distant fighting can be heard. Aeneas’ son Ascanius runs in, frightened by the sounds, but doesn’t dare to wake his father and leaves. From the darkness, the ghost of Hector approaches Aeneas’ bed. Aeneas awakes with a start. The apparition commands him to flee the city’s inevitable destruction and sail with his men to Italy to found a new Troy. As the ghost fades away, the priest Panthus rushes in, wounded and carrying the Palladium (the sacred image of Troy) followed by Coroebus at the head of a band of warriors. The Greeks have stolen out of the horse and Troy is in flames. The Citadel that protects the city still stands and they resolve to fight their way to it or perish. Trojan women are praying for deliverance, led by the princess Polyxena. Cassandra comes to them and prophesies that Troy will rise again in the city Aeneas is destined to found in Italy. Coroebus, she tells them, is dead and she is resolved to follow him. She asks the women if they are prepared to die with her or submit to slavery and the lust of the conquering Greeks. A small group of women, too frightened to take their own lives, are driven out by the others. In exaltation, Cassandra leads the women in a defiant hymn.
As a Greek captain bursts in with looting soldiers, Cassandra is the first to die. More soldiers arrive with news that Aeneas and his band of men have escaped the city. Crying out the word ‘Italy!’, Polyxena and the women take their lives. Troy is consumed in flames.

Interval

ACT III

Queen Dido has fled from her native Tyre after the murder of her husband Sychaeus by her brother, Pygmalion. With her people, she has established a new city, Carthage, on the North African coast. In only seven years, the city has grown and flourished and the populace have gathered to celebrate and pay homage to their beloved Queen. Dido acknowledges the industry and loyalty of her people, but warns them that her peace and theirs are threatened by the Numidian king, Iarbas, and that war may be looming.
The celebrations done, Dido is left alone with her sister, Anna. She confesses to an inner sadness but when Anna urges her to take a new husband denies that she is pining for love. She vows to stay true to the memory of Sychaeus although Anna’s words arouse a secret longing in her. The Court poet, Iopas, enters to announce the arrival of an unknown fleet, washed up on the shore by recent storms. Recalling her own wanderings on the ocean, Dido orders that the strangers be kindly received. The band of Trojan warriors enter, Aeneas among them, but in disguise. Ascanius presents the Queen with gifts from the treasure salvaged from Troy and Panthus explains their leader Aeneas’ mission to build a new Troy in Italy. Suddenly Narbal, High Priest and Minister, rushes in with news that Iarbas’ armies are marching on the city. The Carthaginians are outnumbered and poorly armed. The people can be heard crying out for weapons. Aeneas reveals his identity and offers Dido the arms and support of the Trojans. Dido gratefully accepts the alliance but is also overwhelmed at the sight of the hero. Aeneas prepares to lead the Carthaginians and Trojans together into battle, leaving Ascanius in Dido’s care.

ACT IV

Aeneas has won the war against the Numidians and he and his men have lingered in the pleasant land of Carthage. In a forest close to the city walls, the royal couple have gone hunting. The spirits and creatures of the forest are disturbed by the intrusion of the hunting party as they ride through the trees. A storm gathers and violently breaks. Dido and Aeneas are separated from the others and take shelter from the storm. Finally, they acknowledge their love and their union is consummated. The passion of the lovers is reflected in the wildness of the storm. The spirits dance in ecstasy, but the cries that resound through the forest are of Aeneas’ inevitable destiny; ‘Italy!’.
In the gardens of Dido’s palace, Anna and Narbal are in argument over the long sojourn of the Trojan prince. Narbal fears that Dido has lost her grip on affairs of state, so infatuated is she with her lover. Anna can only rejoice in the passionate love her sister bears Aeneas. Surely, he will marry Dido and remain in Carthage as King, forsaking his mission in Italy. The destiny of the hero cannot be denied, argues Narbal, and disaster will befall Carthage if Aeneas remains.
It is evening and the court enter the gardens to while away the time with music and dance. But Dido is strangely restless and neither the dancing nor the gentle hymn Iopas sings in praise of the goddess Ceres can ease her troubled mind. She asks Aeneas to tell stories of the aftermath of the fall of Troy and he describes the fate of Andromache, carried off and married to Pyrrhus, son of Achilles and slayer of King Priam. It is said that she loves her new husband and has left behind all memory of Hector. Dido is disturbed by his words. They prick her conscience as she realizes that she, too, no longer thinks of Sychaeus as she once did. As she is lost in thought, Ascanius in the guise of Cupid playfully slips the ring of Sychaeus from her finger, quietly observed by the others. As darkness falls, the company contemplate the mysterious beauty of the night. Dido and Aeneas are left alone and, enraptured, pour out their love for each other. As they leave the garden, the moonlight falls on Mercury, messenger of the gods. Three times he intones the word ‘Italy!’. Aeneas’ destiny is inescapable.

ACT V

Hylas, a Phrygian sailor in the Trojan fleet, rocks at the masthead of a ship in the harbour, dreaming of his lost homeland. Below, the Trojan camp bursts into activity as Panthus orders the warriors to be ready to set sail.
Daily, omens are seen indicating the anger of the gods at Aeneas’ long delay. Two sentries grumble at being uprooted once more from a land they are thoroughly enjoying.
Aeneas has told Dido of the necessity to pursue his heroic mission and his intention to leave Carthage and her. She has been convulsed with agony and grief but not spoken a word. He has fled her silent gaze for the harbour, where he gives vent to his own grief. He is unable to bear leaving without holding her one last time in his arms. He wavers in his decision and is confronted by the ghosts of Priam, Coroebus, Hector and Cassandra. The shades will allow not one hour more of delay and urge him to be gone. Aeneas rouses the camp and orders them to prepare to leave immediately. He sends Panthus to the palace to wake Ascanius. Distraught, Dido appears at the harbour to confront him. Her pleas and curses are all in vain. Aeneas will die a hero’s death in the land of Italy. The fleet make ready as Dido rushes away in despair.
In the palace, Dido abandons pride and begs Anna to go to the harbour and entreat Aeneas to stay with her for just a few more days. But the people can be heard outside crying after the departing fleet and Iopas comes with news that the Trojans are already out of sight. Dido falls into a frenzy and, turning from the Gods of Olympus, commits herself to the dark deities of Hades. She commands that a pyre be built on which she will burn every memorial of Aeneas and their union, and dismisses the others. Alone, she falls into utter despair and decides to die. She bids farewell to the city she has built and loved so well.
The people gather round the pyre as Dido performs the ritual of sacrifice to the infernal gods. Anna and Narbal pronounce a curse on Aeneas and Dido ascends the pyre, littered with the memorials of her love. She prophesies the appearance of a great Carthaginian hero who will wage war on Aeneas’ descendants and avenge her: Hannibal. To everyone’s horror, she suddenly seizes Aeneas’ sword and stabs herself. Dying, she sees another vision, of an eternal city: Aeneas’ destiny, Rome. The people of Carthage swear unending hatred and war on the race of Aeneas. One day, an astounded world shall see another Empire fall.

Upcoming events

21 October 2018
Sunday
16:30 - 21:45
2 intermissions
Prices G add to calendar Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
26 October 2018
Friday
16:30 - 21:45
2 intermissions
Prices G add to calendar Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
01 November 2018
Thursday
16:30 - 21:45
2 intermissions
Prices G add to calendar Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal
04 November 2018
Sunday
16:30 - 21:45
2 intermissions
Prices G add to calendar Werkeinführung 30 Minuten vor der Vorstellung im Gustav Mahler-Saal

Coproduction partner

Co-production with Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London, Teatro alla Scala, Milano and San Francisco Opera