Les Troyens (The Trojans)
Les Troyens (The Trojans)
NEW PRODUCTION & LYRIC PREMIERE
LES TROYENS (THE TROJANS)by Hector Berlioz
NOVEMBER 13 – DECEMBER 3
Performed in French with projected English translations
Performance running time: 4 hours 40 minutes including 2 intermissions
Les Troyens Opera Overview
The drama of the Trojan War, replete with heroes and tragedy, has captivated audiences from literature to film, and nowhere does it come to life more vividly than in French opera’s most astounding work, Les Troyens. Grand and glorious in its musical and dramatic breadth, this operatic retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid is rarely performed because of its enormous scale. Experience the tidal wave of sound from Lyric’s massive chorus and orchestra and the exciting ballet as this theatrical tour de force unfolds with a powerhouse cast. Sir Andrew Davis conducts this much-anticipated Lyric premiere that will draw opera lovers from all over the world!
DONNA VAN EEKEREN
FOUNDATION THE NELSON CORNELIUS
FOUNDATION THE NELSON CORNELIUS
Photo: Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company
Les Troyens (The Trojans) Opera Resources
Les Troyens Post-Performance Audience Discussions: Stay after your matinee performance for a 30-minute talk with General Director Anthony Freud and artists from the production.
SynopsisPart 1 — The Taking of Troy
The Greeks’ siege of Troy seems to have ended after ten years when they leave an enormous wooden horse, apparently as a parting gift, but the Trojan princess Cassandra prophecies disaster. She is proven correct: Greek soldiers emerge from the horse and wreak catastrophe on what remains of the city. The women of Troy join Cassandra in committing suicide rather than submit to the Greeks. The hero Aeneas escapes, ready to fulfill his destiny by founding a new Troy in Italy.
Part 2 — The Trojans at Carthage
Aeneas and his men lead Carthage’s army to victory in battle. Queen Dido of Carthage and Aeneas fall in love, but their idyll ends when the hero realizes that fate is too strong: he must leave for Italy. The despairing Dido mounts a funeral pyre and, after proclaiming the coming of a Carthaginian general (Hannibal) who will avenge her, she stabs herself with Aeneas’s sword. She dies envisioning Carthage’s eventual destruction at the hands of Rome, as her people curse Aeneas and his descendants.
Recording by EMI – Crespin, Chauvet, cond. Prêtre. Courtesy Warner Classics.
Learn more about Les Troyens with in-depth insights into its history and composer Hector Berlioz. Plus, you can hear some of musical examples that highlight the opera's epic proportions. Throughout the guide are inside glimpses into what you will see on stage with Lyric's brand-new production.
Read the Guide
Musical excerpts for Les Troyens provided by through generous arrangement with Warner Classics, Official Education and Promotion Music Provider for Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Les Troyens Synopsis
Part 1: The Taking of Troy
The city of Troy after ten years of siege
Part 2: The Trojans at Carthage
The newly built city of Carthage
The Trojans are ecstatic to discover that the Greeks have apparently abandoned the siege of their city and sailed away. A huge wooden horse has been left outside the city gates, and everyone assumes this is an offering the Greek army has made to Pallas Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom.
Cassandra, daughter of Troy’s king, Priam, is beset by visions of destruction threatening Troy, and laments that her father and the people will not listen to her warnings. Cassandra’s betrothed, Chorebus, cannot convince her to join in the people’s celebrations. Instead she begs him to leave Troy before disaster strikes, but he refuses.
King Priam and Queen Hecuba lead the people in thanking the gods for the departure of the Greeks. Everyone is shocked at the despair of Andromache, the grieving widow of the fallen hero Hector. Then Aeneas, a Trojan warrior, brings awful news: the priest, Laocoön, believing the wooden horse was some kind of trick, pierced it with his spear and urged the Trojans to burn it, but moments later two sea serpents devoured him. Thinking that the serpents are a sign of Pallas Athena’s anger at Troy’s rejection of her gift, Aeneas leads the people to bring the horse into the city, despite Cassandra’s terrified feelings of foreboding.
That night the ghost of Hector comes to Aeneas. He tells him that Greek soldiers have poured out of the wooden horse to take the city, that Troy is burning, and that Aeneas must escape to found a new city in Italy.
Cassandra convinces the terrified Trojan women that they must commit suicide, rather than be defiled and enslaved by the Greeks. When enemy soldiers appear, Cassandra and her companions kill themselves, consoled by the knowledge that Aeneas has escaped and that he will build a new Troy.
The people of Carthage proclaim their devotion to Dido, their queen. She thanks them for their achievements in building a new city, while warning them that they face new threats from the neighboring King Iarbas, who is trying to force her into marriage. Anna, Dido’s sister, urges the reluctant queen, a widow, to fall in love again and provide Carthage with the king it needs.
A group of foreigners come to seek refuge in Carthage, just as King Iarbas begins his threatened invasion of Carthage. The foreigners’ leader reveals that he is Aeneas, and offers to help Dido defend her city. Leaving Ascanius, his son, in her care, he and his men go into battle alongside the Carthaginians.
Having defeated Iarbas’s army, Aeneas has remained in Carthage. He and Dido have fallen in love.
Anna dismisses the fears of Narbal, Dido’s chief adviser, who sees the queen giving herself up to pleasure and ignoring her duties, and who is well aware that Aeneas is destined to leave for Italy. Anna however is certain the lovers will marry and rule Carthage together.
Anna has arranged an entertainment to delight the lovers, but Dido is restless and nothing pleases her. She asks Aeneas to finish telling the story of Troy’s last days. He tells her how Andromache, Hector’s widow, finally agreed to marry the Greek prince who captured her at the fall of Troy. Dido feels that Andromache’s example releases her from her vow to stay faithful to the memory of her dead husband. Left alone under the night sky, Dido and Aeneas rejoice in their love.
Hylas, a young Trojan sailor, longs for his homeland, but most of the Trojans are impatient to set sail for Italy.
Aeneas has told Dido he must leave, but, still passionately in love, he dreads the final farewell. He is visited by the ghosts of Cassandra, Chorebus, Hector, and Priam, who order him to depart at once to found the new Trojan state.
Dido is enraged and in despair at the reality of Aeneas’ leaving. When he begs her to understand that although he loves her, he has no choice but to obey the gods, she curses him.
Once Aeneas has gone, Dido orders a pyre built in order to burn the gifts she and Aeneas have shared since his arrival in Carthage. Left alone, Dido prepares for death and bids farewell to her city.
The pyre is ready to be burned. In her despair, the queen prophesies the coming of a general from Carthage, Hannibal, who will one day take her revenge on Rome and Aeneas. Then, to everyone’s horror, she stabs herself. Envisioning Carthage destroyed by Rome, she dies crying “Rome…Rome… eternal,” as her people curse Aeneas and his descendants.
Berlioz's visionary masterwork Les Troyens is as epic as the poem that inspired it and the themes that drive the story. It requires years of planning, hundreds of hours of rehearsals, more than 225 performers, and a virtual army of technical and creative staff to present this monumental piece.
Staging an opera like this is a historic experience for Lyric, due to the sheer scale of the production. And operas of epic scale like Les Troyens need epic supporters — and we hope you will consider making a special gift and join the Trojans Circle.
Trojans Circle donors will have exclusive access to specific rehearsals, special events with cast and crew, and an opportunity to learn what goes into creating this ambitious new production.
We hope that you will be part of this extraordinary moment in our history and join the Trojans Circle.