San Francisco Opera’s production of Les Troyens (The Trojans) – one of the most significant and impressive works in the entire repertoire of opera – will be streamed online this weekend. This magnificent five-act production of Hector Berlioz’s operatic interpretation of Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid, is by Scottish director Sir David McVicar.
Rarely staged, and not seen at the War Memorial Opera House for 47 years, Les Troyens is presented as it was originally written, in the form of two operas – The Fall of Troy and The Trojans at Carthage. Berlioz wrote the libretto for what is regarded as his most ambitious work in 1856, starting the composition of the score in the same year, and completing it in 1858. The first performance of the opera in its entirety took place in Karlsruhe on December 6th and 7th, in 1890.
Leading the line-up of operatic luminaries in the San Francisco production of Les Troyens are mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and Olivier Award-winning tenor Bryan Hymel – in his San Francisco debut – as the ill-fated lovers, Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Trojan warrior Aeneus. Sharing the role of the prophetess Cassandra are Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci and mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens – making her Company debut. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is Dido’s sister Anna, and baritone Brian Mulligan is Cassandra’s lover, Chorebus. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn sings the role of Dido’s minister Narbal, and tenor René Barbera is Dido’s court poet Iopas.
For this co-production between San Francisco Opera, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala and the Vienna State Opera, David McVicar has set his production of Les Troyens in the mid-19th century. Revival director Leah Hausman, with assistance from associate directors Richard Jones and Jose Maria Condemi, restages Sir David McVicar’s production, which is described as the biggest and heaviest physical production ever to be presented at the War Memorial Opera House, even necessitating the reinforcement of the stage. The sets, by Es Devlin, include a 23-foot-tall Trojan horse which becomes engulfed in flames. Costumes are by Moritz Junge and dramatic lighting, based on the original designs of Wolfgang Göbbel, are by Pia Virolainen. The opera’s ballets – based on the work of the production’s original choreographer, Lynne Page – are created by assistant choreographer Gemma Payne.
The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera Chorus (Director Ian Robertson) are conducted by Donald Runnicles, former Music Director of San Francisco Opera, and now General Music Director at Deutsche Oper Berlin and Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson, Wyoming. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Conductor Emeritus of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, having served as its Chief Conductor from 2009-2016.
Sung in French with English supertitles, Les Troyens forms part of the Company’s Opera is ON initiative, by which free opera streams are viewable on demand with registration at sfopera.com. It streams from 10.00 am (PDT) on July 17th, and is available to watch until 11.59 pm (PDT) on July 18th.
Information sourced from San Francisco Opera program notes