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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, February 18

Berlioz uses his imagination

Synopsis

Some things are best left to the imagination—at least that’s what the French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz came to think regarding opera. Berlioz didn’t have the best of luck getting his operas staged during his lifetime, and, on the few occasions he did, the resulting performance fell far short of his ideal. Increasingly Berlioz turned to what might be called the “Theater of the Imagination,” composing concert works that were, for all intents and purposes, operas minus the staging and costumes.

One of these, which Berlioz called “a dramatic legend,” premiered in 1846, was entitled “The Damnation of Faust.” It was based on the famous Faust plays of the German poet Goethe. Like many of Berlioz’s works, “The Damnation of Faust” proved an artistic success—but a box office failure—at its premiere as an unstaged concert piece at the Opera Comique in Paris.

Some five decades later, on today’s date in 1893, “Damnation of Faust” was revived as a fully staged opera at the Monte Carlo Opera. It proved such a success that in short order it was staged in Milan, Moscow, and Liverpool, and even reached the shores of America, courtesy of the French Opera in New Orleans.

Music Played in Today's Program

Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869) Dance of the Sylphs,fr La damnation de Faust Baltimore Symphony; David Zinman, cond. Telarc 80164

Additional Information

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