Didon: Ekaterina Semenchuk
Énée: Mikhail Vekua
Cassandre: Anna Markarova
Narbal: Yuri Vorobiev
Anna: Anna Kiknadze
Chorèbe: Alexei Markov
World premiere (Les Troyens à Carthage, acts 3–5): 4 November 1863, Théâtre Lyrique, Paris
Premiere of the complete version: 6 and 7 December 1890, Großherzogliches Hoftheater, Karlsruhe
Premiere on the Russian stage: 14 December 1899, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow (Les Troyens à Carthage, acts 3–5, performed in Russian, translated by Yekaterina Kletnova)
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 25 December 2009
Premiere of this production: 28 May 2014
Running time 5 hours 5 minutes
The performance has two intervals
Music by Hector Berlioz
Libretto by Hector Berlioz after motifs from Virgil’s Aeneid
Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director and Set Designer: Yannis Kokkos
Costume Designer: Yannis Kokkos, Thibaut Welchlin
Assistant Directors: Stephan Grögler, Kristina Larina
Dramatist: Anne Blancard
Lighting Designer: Vinicio Cheli
Video Designer: Eric Duranteau
Choreographer: Emil Faski
Principal Chorus Master: Konstantin Rylov
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova
French Language Coach: Ksenia Klimenko
The Capture of Troy
After ten years of a failed siege of the city of Troy the Greeks are abandoning their camp. The Trojans celebrate their victory on the vacated site. They see a giant wooden horse left by the Greeks, which they regard as a gift to be presented to Pallas Athene. Cassandre, daughter of King Priam of Troy, foresees the fall of Troy and the death of her beloved Chorèbe. Cassandre tries to persuade him to flee from Troy. Chorèbe, however, does not believe her predictions.
The people come together in a hymn of praise to the gods of Olympus for the salvation of Troy; Queen Hécube and Priam himself appear. Amidst the general rejoicing Hector’s widow Andromaque, together with her son Astyanax, gives vent to her implacable grief for her warrior husband. Énée rushes in and relates that the priest Laocoön, who called on the Trojans to burn the wooden horse, has been swallowed up by sea-serpents. This is seen as the wrath of the goddess Athena, enraged at the priest’s blasphemy. Then Priam, ignoring Cassandre’s protests, orders the horse be brought into Troy. The Trojans triumphantly carry the statue towards the city. In despair, Cassandre observes the procession.
The ghost of the murdered Hector appears to the sleeping Énée. He has foreseen the destruction of Troy, and orders Énée to flee the city and travel to Italy where he is to establish a new Troy – Rome. Meanwhile, the Greeks invade the city. The Trojans are prepared to die, but will never surrender to the enemy. Énée and a group of warriors, seizing the treasures of King Priam, flee from blazing Troy. Cassandre prophesies that Énée will become the founder of a new city. Knowing that Chorèbe is dead, Cassandre cries out “Italy! Italy!” and curses her own self in order to escape Greek enslavement. The other women follow her example.
The Trojans in Carthage
Queen Didon of Carthage, remaining loyal to the memory of her late husband Sichée, does not wish to marry the Numidian King Iarbas who desires her favour. The Carthaginians swear devotion to Didon and are prepared to protect her from the Numidian’s solicitations. Representatives of various professions – builders, sailors and peasant farmers – are presented to the Queen in turn.
At the end of the triumphant ceremony, Didon is talking with her sister Anna, who convinces her to forsake her fidelity to Sichée and free her heart to find new love. At the same time, the Queen is informed of the arrival of foreigners in the port whose ship has been wrecked. Didon agrees to allow them into the harbour. A brigade of Trojans arrives, and Ascagne presents himself and his fellow travellers to the Queen. The Trojan priest Panthée tells of a prophecy that will force Énée to travel in search of Italy.
Didon’s counsellor Narbal informs her that the cruel Numidian leader has reached Carthage with a countless horde of savages and the city has insufficient weaponry to defend itself. Then Énée of fers assistance to Carthage. Leaving Ascagne in Didon’s care, he takes command of the now-unified soldiers and hastens to meet the enemy.
In Didon’s gardens Narbal is talking with Anna. He is worried that Didon, attracted by Énée, is ignoring affairs of State. Anna sees nothing amiss in this; Énée would be a magnificent ruler of Carthage. Narbal reminds her that the gods have decreed that Énée link his destiny with Italy, but Anna replies that there is no god on Earth more powerful than love itself.
With dances and songs the subjects praise their Queen. With Énée beside her, she gradually forgets her late husband. Didon and Énée declare their love for one another. These declarations are interrupted by the appearance of Mercure, messenger of the gods, who informs Énée it is Jupiter’s will that he leave Carthage and set out for Italy.
The sea coast of Carthage. Panthée and the Trojan leaders are discussing the terrible omens of the gods, displeased at their being delayed in Carthage. Énée’s soul is engaged in a bitter struggle between his duty, which calls him to Italy, and his love, which holds him in Carthage. He wishes to see the Queen one last time, but is confronted by the ghosts of Priam, Chorèbe, Hector and Cassandre who call to him to depart without delay.
Didon cannot believe that Énée is attempting to sail away from her in secret. Énée begs her to forgive him, denoting the will of the gods, but Didon pays no heed to these supplications and curses him. And yet she begs Anna to ask Énée once again to remain. Anna is sorry that she gave her blessing to the love between her sister and Énée. When Didon is informed that the Trojans have left Carthage, in fury she orders the Carthaginians to sail after them and sink the Trojan fleet, but then, left alone, in despair she resolves to commit suicide. At the moment of the Queen’s death, another vision comes to her: Carthage will be destroyed and Rome will become eternal. The people of Carthage and the priests curse Énée and his people.
Hector Berlioz has gone down in history as a romantic and an innovator, almost indeed a trouble-maker. Paying scant attention to the demands of fashion, in everything he was a maximalist. Those who asked for Berlioz' autograph in their albums risked receiving the response of the impromptu "Chorus for four hundred and two voices in an unknown Celtic language". But when it comes to serious works then he borrowed plots from the great poets. For Les Troyens – a grand opéra in five acts – he chose Virgil's Aeneid.
Les Troyens appeared at the cross of two traditions. On the one hand it was a tribute to an admiration for the operas of the great revolutionary of the 18th century, Christoph Willibald Gluck, the continuation of his work that was imbued with Antiquity. On the other hand, Les Troyens in five acts with its choruses and ballet scenes was a true French grand opéra, the most monumental of opera's romantic genres, both in terms of the cast and in the length of the performance.
In Les Troyens there are not just two kings, there are two peoples. This is the reason why the opera's score is adorned with powerful choruses and ensembles with so many participants: a quintet, septet and octet. The dances in Acts I and III are intended not for individual soloists, but rather as crowd scenes. The anthems, marches and processions demand and require a huge amount of people on the stage. In accordance with the laws of French grand opéra there had to be a ballet in Act IV. The act would open with an entire ballet scene – "Royal Hunt and Storm".
At the Mariinsky Theatre Les Troyens only appeared in the 21st century. The current production is the second visit by the theatre and Valery Gergiev to this mammoth opera. The Stage Director and Set Designer of Les Troyens is the Frenchman of Greek descent, Yannis Kokkos. In St Petersburg he has revived his production of 2003, which was staged to celebrate two centuries since the birth of Berlioz in Paris. The stylish and laconic set designs cleverly make use of a gigantic mirror: its reflection makes the impressive events depicted within it even more grandiose and majestic.
Based on the Théâtre du Châtelet-Paris’ production created by Yannis Kokkos (Premiere: 11 October 2003), in co-production with the Grand Théâtre de Genève
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