Dramatic Vocalise Database

Hector Berlioz (1803–69)

Les Troyens, Op. 5 (1856–58)

Berlioz capitalized on earlier “experiments” in his opera Les Troyens, op. 5 (1856–58). According to Berlioz’s Memoirs, he was encouraged to undertake the project during a visit to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, aunt of Prince Eugène de Sayn-Wittgenstein to whom Berlioz had dedicated Tristia:

According to David Charlton, “the work is, on probably every level, the finest French opera composed during this period.” Charlton also states that, “The most brilliant stroke was the dance pantomime inspired directly by Virgil (the ‘Chasse royale et orage’).”2 The description of this scene in Virgil’s text is as follows:

Berlioz expanded this simple scenario into a complex structure, one capable of expressing the intense dramatic concept he had in mind:

The numerous phantasmagoric effects in this description—mythical beings, a raging storm with lightning strikes, waterfalls—are strikingly similar to those in Weber’sWolf’s Glen” scene. The chorus (nymphs, sylvans, and fauns) sings “A-o a-o” at the climax of the scene, when the storm is at its full fury and Dido and Aeneas consummate their love.

Berlioz, Les Troyens, “Chasse royale et orage,” mm. 242–45

Les Troyens was first performed on 4 November 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, where it received twenty-one performances before closing. However it was only acts 3 through 5, appearing under the name Les Troyens à Carthage that were actually performed. Berlioz wrote in his Memoirs regarding his frustrations with the production, and the “Chasse royale” in particular:

And again shortly after the previous passage:

In addition, Berlioz added a handwritten note in the autograph manuscript as follows:

The difficulties of such extraordinary stage effects are the same as those encountered in the case of Weber and Wagner earlier.

(Nauman 2009, 39–43)



"Chasse royale et orage" (excerpt)

“Chasse royale et orage” (complete)

“Chasse royale et orage” (complete)

Monteverdi Choir, Choeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Recorded in performance, Oct. 2003, Théâtre Musical de Paris/Châtelet

“Chasse royale et orage” (complete)

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
James Levine, conductor

Recorded in performance, Oct. 1983, Metropolitan Opera


1 Hector Berlioz, Memoirs of Hector Berlioz from 1803 to 1865, Comprising His Travels in Germany, Italy, Russia, and England, trans. Rachel and Eleanor Holmes; annotated, and the translations revised, by Ernest Newman (1932; repr., New York: Dover, 1966), 494.

2 David Charlton, “Chapter 6, Opera: 1850–1890; (b) France,” in Romanticism (1830–1890), ed. Gerald Abraham. New Oxford History of Music, vol. 9 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 336.

3 Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. and intro. by W. F. Jackson Knight (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1956), 102.

4 Translated from the original French in Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, op. 5, in New Edition of the Complete Works of Hector Berlioz, vol. 2b (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1969), 443.

5 Hector Berlioz, Memoirs, 497.

6 Ibid., 501.

7 Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens: Supplement, ed. Hugh Macdonald, in New Edition of the Complete Works of Hector Berlioz, vol. 2c (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1969), 835.