Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 7, 2008

Berlioz, "Les Troyens" Part II, Acts III - V

Tanglewood, Lenox
by Colleen Moynihan

This grand masterpiece by Hector Berlioz, composed in the mid-19th
century, was conceived as a counter to the acclaim being awarded to
Berlioz's competitor, Wagner. Les Troyens, enduring a century of
struggle to be known by concert goers, proves it does meet the standard
of a grand masterpiece. Requiring 7 hours to do the complete work, Part
II has historically been the most performed.

This performance by the Tanglewood ensemble was exciting, lush, filled
with both vocal and instrumental moments of brilliance. Berlioz's genius
as an orchestrator was reinforced by a tight yet flexible interpretation
by Maestro Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra which gave the lyrical lines of the opera a
positive tension. The chorus and individual vocalists added to the
vibrancy of the overall performance.

A rousing opening chorus set the tone for the work. Queen Dido's (Anne
Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano) opening aria was full of passion and
foreboding. Von Otter maintained this exciting tone throughout her three
plus hour performance. Aeneas (Marcus Haddock, tenor) was well matched
in tone, control and mastery of phrase. The solos as well as the duets
had energy and lustiness based on technical mastery.

The performance was diluted slightly in Act 4, Scene 2. The secondary
leads (Christin-Marie Hill, mezzo and Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass) and
their respective solos and duet were a bit lackluster and in some instances
demonstrated less control of lower ranges . The appearance of these
individuals in subsequent scenes was decidedly improved as the vocals
were more comfortably placed.

Act 4, Scene 1, was completely instrumental. This showcased Berlioz's
talent as a composer and skill as an orchestrator. The
orchestra obligingly gave their all in this counterpoint of reeds and
brass, full voiced strings showcasing the flowing, lyrical themes of the

Heroic tenor arias, soaring soprano vocals, lush, lyrical passages,
simple flowing lines and texturally complex voicing for both vocalists
and instrumentalists marked a musical experience that reinforced
Berlioz's goal of creating a grand masterpiece. First played in the
United States in 1955, it is time to "play it again and again"!