Listen to Les Troyens

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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 conducted by Sir Andrew Davis as this theatrical tour de force unfolds with a powerhouse cast.

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Act one

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.

Act two

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.

Act three

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.

Act four

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.

Act five

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.

Meet the artists

* Lyric debut
** Ryan Opera Center alumnus

Program book

Go inside this production of Les Troyens with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

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Lyric’s new production of Berlioz’s Les Troyens is generously sponsored by

Donna Van Eekeren Foundation

The Nelson Cornelius Production Endowment Fund

Lyric Audio Streaming is made possible through a generous gift from

Robert F. Finke
in Memory of Carol Keenan

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg