our monthly article on the arts



Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz occupies a truly unique place in the operatic repertoire:  It is essentially the last in the long, long line of operas based on classical subjects.  Its position is also unusual because—while almost unanimously considered one of the greatest operas of the nineteenth century—it is performed relatively rarely.  While this is due in large part to the complexity of the opera, performing Les Troyens is also hindered because of the relatively high price of scores of the opera.

The first edition of the vocal score is significant for several reasons:  Most importantly, it presents the composer’s own piano reduction of the orchestrations—more recent editions replace this with new arrangements which are generally much harder to play.  Indeed, the significance of the Berlioz’s own arrangement for piano makes it difficult to believe that this edition has remained out of print for over a hundred years.  The scores are consequently extremely rare—particularly  Part 1, La prise de Troie, which was not performed during the composer’s lifetime.  The score of Part 2, Les Troyens a Carthage, is slightly more common, given that this part of the work was staged in 1863, the year of the score’s publication.  While easier to find, copies of Part 2 are almost always incomplete, incorporating a series of substantial cuts implemented during the run of the original production at the Theatre Lyrique.

This edition reproduces the original states of the first editions of La prise de Troie and Les Troyens a Carthage as published by Choudens in 1863.  The reprint of the latter has been reassembled from several individual copies; no single one containing all the music could be located.  In addition to the composer’s piano arrangement, significant features of the edition include the presence of the Prologue to Part 2 (absent in modern editions) and the division of Part 2 into five acts rather than the four found in the more recent Choudens edition.  Grame Music is proud to make available the complete score of Les Troyens—as Berlioz authorized it for publication—for the first time in well over a century.

- Constantine Grame