New Release: Berlioz’ “Les Troyens” in Strasbourg

Sixteen vocal soloists, three choirs, and perhaps the largest orchestra ever conceived for opera…

These are the requirements for Les Troyens (“The Trojans”), Hector Berlioz’ massive 1858 French grand opera in five acts. Berlioz himself adapted the libretto from Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid. He didn’t live to see the opera performed in its entirety. But he considered it to be his crowning achievement, writing in 1861,

I am sure that I have written a great work, greater and nobler than anything done hitherto.

A spectacular new concert performance of Les Troyens was released at the end of November. John Nelson leads the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg and a cast which includes Joyce DiDonato (Didon), Michael Spyres (Énée), and Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Cassandre).

When it comes to “symphonic” opera in which the orchestra plays an equal role with the singers, Wagner may be the first composer to come to mind. But the same psychological overtones and dramatic weight are here in Berlioz’ orchestration. Here are a few highlights:

“Malheureux roi!” from Act I, performed by Marie-Nicole Lemieux:

Didon’s act V monologue, “Ah! Ah! Je vais mourir,” performed by Joyce DiDonato:

The act V aria,“Ah! quand viendra l’instant des suprêmes adieux,” performed by Michael Spyres:

Recordings

  • Berlioz: Les Troyens, Op. 29, Soloists: Joyce DiDonato (Didon), Michael Spyres (Énée), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Cassandre), Stéphane Degout (Chorèbe), Nicolas Courjal (Narbal), Marianne Crebassa (Ascagne), Hanna Hipp (Anna), Cyrille Dubois (Iopas), Stanislas de Barbeyrac (Hélénus/Hylas), Philippe Sly (Panthée), Agnieszka Slawinska (Hécube), Jean Teitgen (L’ombre d’Hector/Mercure), Bertrand Grunenwald (Priam), Jérôme Varnier & Frédéric Caton (Deux sentinelles)
    Choeur de l’Opéra du Rhin
    Badischer Staatsopernchor
    Choeur philharmonique de Strasbourg
    Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg/John Nelsons 
    Amazon, iTunes

Photograph by Grégory Massat

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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