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Hector Berlioz

The Trojans

Grand-Opéra in five acts 
libretto and musica by Hector Berlioz

Enée: Gregory Kunde
Chorèbe: Fabio Capitanucci
Panthée: Alexandre Duhamel
Narbal: Giacomo Prestia 
Iopas: Shalva Mukeria
Ascagne: Paola Gardina
Cassandre: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Didon: Daniela Barcellona
Anna: Maria Radner
Hylas: Paolo Fanale
Priam: Mario Luperi
a greec soldier: Ernesto Panariello
Hector's ghost: Deyan Vatchkov
Hélénus: Oreste Cosimo
first troyan soldier: Guillermo Esteban Bussolini
second troyan soldier: Alberto Rota
le Dieu Mercure: Emidio Guidotti
Hécube: Elena Zilio 

Orchestra and Choir Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Conductor Antonio Pappano

One of the great enthusiasms of the French nineteenth-century romanticists was classical literature; and one of the greatest enthusiasms of Hector Berlioz, most romantic of the romanticists, was Virgil, the laureate of Augustan Rome. Accordingly, when the Princess Wittgenstein, mistress of his great and good friend Franz Liszt, suggested the Aeneid as the subject of an opera to Berlioz, he embraced it with all the enthusiasm of his romantic heart.

With infinite labor and affection he wrote a vast libretto based on Books I, II, and IV of the epic (with a telling passage from The Merchant of Venice thrown in for good measure) and composed a score of imposing dimensions. Then began the still more heartbreaking business of trying to wangle a production. That took five whole years; and even then he might not have succeeded had he accepted an invitation to visit the United States. He turned it down partly because the Civil War was going on, partly because he hated Americans, whom he knew only as tourists.

The French, however, were not a great deal more perspicacious. When the work was finally given in 1863, only the second half reached the stage-and that was remorselessly cut after a while. Berlioz never lived to see the entire work done anywhere. He wrote bitterly about this defeat; and when, twenty-one years after bis death, a complete performance of Les troyens was staged, it took place in Germany and in the German language.

When the entire work is given, two evenings must be devoted to it; and as the first part is comparatively static, it has become customary in France to give only the second part, under the title of The Trojans at Carthage. The first part is called, then, The Capture of Troy and the whole simply The Trojans.

Despite its comparatively few productions it is generally regarded as one of the few really great French operas. Even Donald Francis Tovey, one of the great critics of the twentieth century who had, generally, little good to say of Berlioz, wrote:
"It is one of the most gigantic and convincing masterpieces of music-drama."


(The Trojans)

Opera in two parts and six acts (though sometimes divided into seven or even eight)
by Hector Berlioz with libretto in French by the composer
based on Books I,II, and IV of  Virgil’s Aeneid

PART I -  The Capture of Troy

Priam, King of Troy​
Hecuba, his wife​

Aeneas, Helenus, Cassandra, Polyxena: their children
Ascanius, son of Aeneas

Coroebus, fiance of Cassandra
Panthus, a Trojan priest
Andromache, widow of Hector
Astyanax, her son
Chost of Hector
A Greek Officer


PART II - The Trojans at Carthage

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Narbal, her minister

Anna, her sister

Aeneas, leader of the Trojans

Ascanius, his son

Iopas, a Carthaginian poet

Hylas, a young Trojan sailor

The Ghost of Cassandra
The Ghost of Coroebus

The Ghost of Hector

The Ghost of Priam

The God Mercury

First Trojan Soldier

Second Trojan Soldier


Time: Ancient Troy and Carthage
Places: Troy and Carthage

First performance, of Part II only, at Paris, November 4, 1863
First performance of both parts at Karlsruhe (in German)
December 5 and 6, 1890


Bass. King of Troy. Father of Cassandra and Hector, who orders the wooden horse of the defeated Greeks to be placed before Athene's Temple. Creator ( 1890 ) not known. 

Priam, in Greek mythology, the last king of Troy. He succeeded his father, Laomedon, as king and extended Trojan control over the Hellespont. He married first Arisbe (a daughter of Merops the seer) and then Hecuba, and he had other wives and concubines. He had 50 sons, according to Homer’s Iliad, and many daughters. Hecuba bore 19 of the sons, including Priam’s favourites, Hector and Paris.

Homer described Priam at the time of the Trojan War as an old man, powerless but kindly, not even blaming Helen, the wife of Paris, for all his personal losses resulting from the war. In the final year of the conflict, Priam saw 13 sons die: the Greek warrior Achilles killed Polydorus, Lycaon, and Hector within one day. The death of Hector, which signified the end of Troy’s hopes, also broke the spirit of the king. Priam’s paternal love impelled him to brave the savage anger of Achilles and to ransom the corpse of Hector; Achilles, respecting the old man’s feelings and foreseeing his own father’s sorrows, returned the corpse. When Troy fell, Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, butchered the old king on an altar. Both Priam’s death and his ransoming of Hector were favourite themes of ancient art.

Jules Lefebvre’s “La Mort de Priam” 

Mezzo-Soprano. Wife of King Priam, mother of Hector and Paris. At the time of Paris's birth, Hecuba's dream foretells that Paris will cause the death of Priam. Hecuba is prepared to have her son killed, but Priam allows the baby to be taken by a shepherd. Created ( 1962 ) by Marie Collier.

Hecuba, Greek Hekabe, in Greek legend, the principal wife of the Trojan king Priam, mother of Hector, and daughter, according to some accounts, of the Phrygian king Dymas. When Troy was captured by the Greeks, Hecuba was taken prisoner. Her fate was told in various ways, most of which connected her with the promontory Cynossema (Dog’s Monument) on the Hellespont. According to Euripides (in the Hecuba), her youngest son, Polydorus, had been placed under the care of Polymestor, king of Thrace. When the Greeks reached the Thracian Chersonese on their way home, she discovered that her son had been murdered and in revenge put out the eyes of Polymestor and murdered his two sons. Later, she was turned into a dog, and her grave became a mark for ships.

Merry-Joseph Blondel - Hecuba and Polyxena 

Aeneas, mythical hero of Troy and Rome, son of the goddess Aphrodite and Anchises. Aeneas was a member of the royal line at Troy and cousin of Hector. He played a prominent part in defending his city against the Greeks during the Trojan War, being second only to Hector in ability. Homer implies that Aeneas did not like his subordinate position, and from that suggestion arose a later tradition that Aeneas helped to betray Troy to the Greeks. The more common version, however, made Aeneas the leader of the Trojan survivors after Troy was taken by the Greeks. In any case, Aeneas survived the war, and his figure was thus available to compilers of Roman myth.

The association of Homeric heroes with Italy and Sicily goes back to the 8th century BCE—when Homer’s epic poems likely became written texts—and the Greek colonies founded there in that and the next century frequently claimed descent from leaders in the Trojan War. Legend connected Aeneas, too, with certain places and families, especially in the region of Latium. As Rome expanded over Italy and the Mediterranean, its patriotic writers began to construct a mythical tradition that would at once dignify their land with antiquity and satisfy a latent dislike of Greek cultural superiority. 

Tenor. Trojan hero, urged by the ghost of Hector to create a new Troy in Italy. He leads the Trojans on this quest and, washed ashore in a storm, enters Queen Dido's palace in Carthage and falls in love with her. Reluctantly he leaves her to continue his journey. Aria: Ah! quand viendra l'instant des suprêmes adieux (‘Ah! when the moment comes for the last farewell’); duet (with Dido): Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase infinie! (‘Night of unending ecstasy and rapture!’). Created ( 1863 ) by Jules‐Sébastien Monjauze ....

Aeneas Flees Burning Troy, by Federico Barocci

Nicolai Gedda - Shirley Verrett - Duet - Berlioz, Les Troyens - Live 1969

Mezzo-s0prano. Daughter of the Trojan King Priam, she foretells the destruction of Troy. Rather than risk capture by the Greeks, she urges the Trojan women to join her in mass suicide. She stabs herself. Aria: Malheureux Roi! (‘Unhappy King!’). Created ( 1890 ) by Luise Reuss‐Belce.

Anna Caterina Antonacci - Les Grecs ont disparu Malheureux Roi! Chorèbe C'est Lu

Cassandra, in Greek mythology, the daughter of Priam, the last king of Troy, and his wife Hecuba. In Homer’s Iliad, she is the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters but not a prophetess.
According to Aeschylus’s tragedy Agamemnon, Cassandra was loved by the god Apollo, who promised her the power of prophecy if she would comply with his desires. Cassandra accepted the proposal, received the gift, and then refused the god her favours. Apollo revenged himself by ordaining that her prophecies should never be believed. She accurately predicted such events as the fall of Troy and the death of Agamemnon, but her warnings went unheeded. During the sack of Troy, Ajax the Lesser dragged Cassandra from the altar of Athena and raped her. For this impiety, Athena sent a storm that sank most of the Greek fleet as it returned home. The rape of Cassandra by Ajax was a favourite scene in Greek art. In the distribution of the spoils after the capture of Troy, Cassandra fell to Agamemnon and was later murdered with him. She was worshipped, as Alexandra, with Agamemnon.

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan


Mezzo-soprano. Queen of Carthage, widow of Sychoeus, who was killed by her brother. She gives shelter to the Trojans, who have been shipwrecked near her castle, and falls in love with their leader, Aeneas. When he leaves her in order to fulfil his quest to build a new Troy in Italy, she builds a pyre to destroy all memories of him, stabs herself with his sword and ascends the pyre. Arias: Chers Tyriens! (‘Dear Tyrians!’); Adieu, fière cité… (‘Farewell, proud city’); duet (with Aeneas): Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase infinie! (‘Night of unending ecstasy and rapture!’). Created (1890) by Anne Charton-Demeur.

Dido, also called Elissa, in Greek legend, the reputed founder of Carthage, daughter of the Tyrian king Mutto (or Belus), and wife of Sychaeus (or Acerbas).

Her husband having been slain by her brother Pygmalion, Dido fled to the coast of Africa where she purchased from a local chieftain, Iarbas, a piece of land on which she founded Carthage. The city soon prospered, and Iarbas sought Dido’s hand in marriage. To escape from him, Dido constructed a funeral pyre, on which she stabbed herself before the people. Virgil, however, in his Aeneid, reshaped this story to make Dido a contemporary of Aeneas, whose descendants founded Rome. Dido fell in love with Aeneas after his landing in Africa, and Virgil attributes her suicide to her abandonment by him at the command of Jupiter. Her dying curse on the Trojans provides a mythical origin for the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. 

Dido and Aeneas' Rutilio Manetti 

Elina Garanca -  "Ah! Je vais mourir... Adieu, fière cité"; Les Troyens - Hector Berlioz



(The Capture of Troy)


Scene 1  The Greeks have apparently abandoned thе siege of Troy, and outside the walls of that fabled city, before the empty tent of the once-dreaded Achilles, the people of Troy are celebrating. News comes that the departed enemy has left behind, on the shore, a huge wooden horse as an offering to the goddess Pallas Athene, and they rush off to see the wonder. Only Cassandra is left behind—that beautiful daughter of King Priam who has been cursed by Apollo with the gift of uttering true prophecies which are never to be believed. She has seen the ghost of her brother Hector looking fearfully across the sea, and she knows that Priam is doomed. Yet no one will believe her, and even Coroebus, to whom she is engaged, believes her to be mad. Coroebus comes to her and tenderly asks her to rejoice with the others, but she is still full of gloomy prophecies: the streets of Troy will be running with blood; its virgins will be violated; and Coroebus himself will be killed by a Grecian spear. She implores him to flee the place; but Coroebus is a hero, and in the duet that follows, she speaks lovingly and comfortingly to him. The gloomy girl promises to marry him, but adds that death is already preparing their bridal bed.

Scene 2 Before the citadel of Troy, King Priam and Queen Hecuba 1101d courts celebrating the victory and giving thanks to the protecting gods. Processions pass by, and a mimic battle is danced. At its close, Andromache comes in with little Astyanax. She is the widow of the great hero of Troy, Prince Hector, who had been slain by Achilles in single combat and dragged around the walls seven times. Mother and child are dressed in white, the symbol of mournings and everyone receives them with solemn respect. At the back of the stage, however, Cassandra prophesies even greater disaster for Hecuba; and the ensemble develops as a solemn funeral march.

Aeneas, another son of Priam's, comes rushing in with somber news. The priest Lаосoon had shared some of Cassandra's misgivings about the wooden horse. "I fear Greeks when they bear gifts,” he said, and hurled a javelin at the monster. Immediately two serpents bad come across the waters and destroyed him and his sons. The news strikes horror into the Trojan hearts, and an impressive ensemble expresses it. Nevertheless, the advice of Aeneas prevails. He interprets the action of the serpents as revenge of the gods for an act of impiety and orders the horse to be drawn into the city. Only Cassandra warns against this foolhardy act, but no one, as usual, pays any attention to her.

An elaborate scene develops as night falls; off-stage the soldiers begin the Trojan March of Triumph; and chorus after chorus comes on. A few of the people are disquieted by a report that weapons have been heard clanking inside the horse, but when it is actually drawn across the scene, joy prevails again. As Cassandra sees it drawn into the city itself, she cries: “It is finished! Death has seized its prey!"


Scene 1 Aeneas is asleep, and his little son, Ascanius, disquieted by the ominous sounds he has heard outside, steak in. He does not dare awaken his father, however, and leaves again. He is followed by a bolder and more sinister figure - the ghost of Hector. Hector warns his brother of Troy's impending doom and tells him to save the household gods from the disaster. Then in a most solemn address (which is, musically, nothing but a slow descending chromatic octave) he tells him to seek out Italy and found an empire to rule the world. (This, of course, is to be Rome.)

Hector's warning is already too late. Panthus, a priest, himself badly wounded, brings in the statuettes of the gods and tells Aeneas how Greek soldiers poured out of the wooden horse, slew the guards, and have already massacred many of the people and the King bimsel. Ascanius, Coroebus, and others follow, and Aeneas rushes out at their head, determined to make a last stand.

Scene 2 The women of Troy are gathered in the Temple of Vesta, which has a high gallery at its back. They sing a wailing prayer to the goddess Cybele (the mother of Zeus), and Cassandra joins them with the report that Aeneas and a band of followers have escaped, that they are on their way to Italy to found a greater Troy. But as for herself, there is nothing left: Coroebus has fallen. She urges all of them to escape a fate worse than death by hurling themselves from the gallery; but a few of the younger girls shrink from the sacrifice, and they are driven from the temple, presumably into the aims of the Greek rapists.

A band of these Greeks invades the temple, looking for treasure rather than girls, and their anonymous leader is struck with awe by the sight of the women, wailing as they play their lyres. Cassandra and her sister Polyxena (once the beloved of the Greek Achilles) stab themselves; most of the others hurl themselves from the gallery; and Cassandra, with her last 
breath, stretches her arms toward Mount Ida and cries: “Italy!"

Postscript for the mythologically curious: According to other versions of the story, Cassandra was carried home by Agamemnon as his concubine, and his wife, Clytemnestra, murdered both of them, using the beautiful newcomer as one of the excuses for her mariticide. Polyxena is also variantly reported as having been sacrificed at the tomb of Achilles on the demand of that redoubtable warrior's ghost


(The Trojans at Carthage)


After an overture thoroughly in the spirit of classical tragedy, the action opens as Queen Dido and her Carthaginian subjects are having a thanksgiving festival in the gardens of her palace. Seven years before, Dido's husband murdered, they had all fled to North Africa; and now, through hard work and the blessings of nature, they have established a prosperous city-state. When the subjects leave, Dido is approached by her sister Anna, who thinks it time for Dido to consider marrying again. In the duet that follows, Dido makes it clear that she wishes to remain faithful to the memory of her husband, but she also makes it clear that (like any classical lady in a French libretto) she yearns for love.

At the close of the duet a messenger announces that a storm has forced a fleet into the harbor of Carthage, and the strangers request an audience. In comes a group of sailors with a young boy who offers gifts. This boy turns out to be Ascanius, son of Aeneas, the glamorous leader of the Trojans. The interview is interrupted by Dido's chief adviser Narbal, who announces the imminent invasion of the defenseless Carthaginians by a mighty Numidian force. Immediately one of the sailors throws off his disguise. It is Aeneas offering Dido the use of his army and weapons in defense of Carthage. The offer is at once accepted, and the act ends with a martial call to arms.


Between Act I and Act II, Aeneas and his followers have helped Dido throw back the invaders. The opera resumes with the one passage in the work fairly familiar to concert-goers. That is the Royal Hunt and Storm, which is a sort of ballet in which Aeneas and Dido are engaged in a hunt. They are overtaken by a storm and driven for shelter into a cave, where their love is consummated. The wild scenery and the bunt are graphically described by the orchestra, and toward the close wild nymphs and fauns are heard crying: "Italy, Italy!"  These are reminders of the destiny of Aeneas, who must leave Dido and Carthage to go to Italy and found the great city of Rome.

Act II proper begins with a duet between Didoes sister Anna and Narbal. That wise gentleman is worried because Dido is paying more attention to her beloved guest than to affairs of state. "Why worry?" asks Anna, for no one could make a more suitable King of Carthage than the heroic Aeneas. The only trouble is, counters Narbal, that Aeneas may not marry the girl: he has another future mapped out for him at Rome. At the close of their duet there is a ballet celebrating the victory of Aeneas. Then Dido calls for a song from the court minstrel Iopas, who obliges with an ode in praise of Ceres, goddess of agriculture.

Now Aeneas relates the fate of Andromache, who married the son of the murderer of her beloved husband, Hector. As he talks, Dido falls more in love with him. Everyone is fascinated by the recital, and the act ends with a lave duet based on the poetic exchange between Nerissa and Lorenzo in the last act of The Merchant of Venice. Yet, at its very dose, comes thе voice of Mercury, the messenger of the gods. He must urge Aeneas on his way; and he cries: “Italy, Italy, Italyl” like the nymphs and fauns earlier. 


We now move down to the harbor of Carthage, where the fleet of Aeneas is ready to sail. A young sailor named Hylas sings a nostalgic song of homesickness, and a group of Trojans comments on a strange phenomenon: the ghosts of various Trojans have been urging Aeneas to leave Carthage and go to Italy.

This somber scene is followed by the one comic scene in the whole opera. Two Trojan sentries talk about the hospitality and lack of race prejudice among their Carthaginian hosts. It has a strangely modern ring to it.

And now Aeneas, in a long monologue, complains of the fate that drives him from the arms of his beloved Dido. He decides to pay her one last visit. But then the shades of his fellow-warriors and relatives urge him to leave. Priam, Hector, Cassandra—their voices all unite in demanding that he go on to Italy. He finally decides to obey and orders everything readied for departure.

But then Dido reappears. Pitifully, reproachfully, she begs him to remain. His fate is ordained by the gods, he says; he must leave, and he must die in founding Rome. He loves her, but the gods are adamant. In a tower of anger she departs, denouncing him as a "monster of piety." With her curses still sounding in his ears, he listens as the sailors make their joyous preparations. “Italy, Italy, Italy!” they shout.


Scene 1  In her palace Dido tries to persuade Anna to plead with Aeneas, but then Narbal brings the news that he is already at sea with his fleet. Now she is forever deserted. First she wishes to pursue him in her own ships and to bum the Trojan fleet; next she gives way to complete despair; and finally, as the scene ends, she sings a tong last farewell to her own city of Carthage.

Scene 2  On a terrace overlooking the sea Dido commands a huge pyre to be built. There she will sacrifice the tokens of her love to the gods. When all is in readiness, she mounts the pyre herself. In an ecstasy of inspiration she foresees the future invasion of Rome by Carthaginians under Hannibal. And then, again, she foresees the ruin of Carthage at the bands of the Romans. Finally, in utter despair, she seizes the sword Aeneas had left behind and stabs herself. As she utters her dying, savage cries, the chorus hurls a series of curses on the race of Aeneas, the race of the Trojans, and the Romans. But the Trojan March is played once more, and in the distance, behind the pyre, rises a vision of the Eternal City.

Virgil - "Aeneid"

Aeneid, Latin epic poem written from about 30 to 19 BCE by the Roman poet Virgil. Composed in hexameters, about 60 lines of which were left unfinished at his death, the Aeneid incorporates the various legends of Aeneas and makes him the founder of Roman greatness. The work is organized into 12 books that relate the story of the legendary founding of Lavinium (parent town of Alba Longa and of Rome). The town is founded by Aeneas, who was informed as he left the burning ruins of Troy that it was his fate to found a new city with a glorious destiny in the West.

In Book I Aeneas, journeying to his fated destination, encounters foul weather and is forced to land his fleet on the Libyan coast. There he is welcomed by the widowed Dido, queen of Carthage. Books II and III contain Aeneas’s account (told to Dido) of events both natural and supernatural that have led him to her shore. In Book IV Dido confesses her love for Aeneas, who (though he regrets his fate) is then forced by the gods to set sail again. She prepares to kill herself. The Trojans, in Book V, journey to Sicily, where they engage in a series of competitions to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Aeneas’s father, Anchises. They then set sail again. Book VI is the account of Aeneas’s journey to the underworld and Elysium, where he meets the ghosts of Dido and Anchises, among others. In this book the destiny of Rome is revealed. Books VII through XII relate the fate of the Trojans as they reach the Tiber River and are received by Latinus, the king of the region. Other Latins (encouraged by the gods) resent the arrival of the Trojans and the projected marriage alliance between Aeneas and Lavinia, Latinus’s daughter; notable among the resentful are Latinus’s wife and Turnus, leader of a local tribe known as the Rutuli and heretofore Lavinia’s favoured suitor. War breaks out, but the Trojans, with the help of the Etruscans, prevail, and Turnus is killed. As fated, Aeneas marries Lavinia and founds Lavinium.

Homer was Virgil’s model. The story of Aeneas’s journey, recounted in the first six books, is patterned after the Odyssey, with many imitative passages and even direct translations, while the description of the war in the last six books abounds with incidents modeled after those in the Iliad. More basically, however, Virgil made use of another model, Rome’s own national legend about the war fought under Romulus against the Sabines. This legend preserves, in a historical disguise, an original Indo-European myth about a conflict between the gods of sovereignty and war and the gods of fecundity, ending with the unification of the two divine races. In Virgil’s development of this theme, Aeneas and the Etruscans can be seen as representing the gods of sovereignty and war, and the Latins as representing the gods of fecundity.

The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Domenico Tiepolo 

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