A poster boy for 19th-century Romanticism, Berlioz liked to tackle big subjects and big passions: the birth of Christ, the Faust legend, the story of Romeo and Juliet. The Trojans, his two-part operatic adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid, clocks in at four and a half hours total, and its harmonic structure and orchestration were so ambitious for their day that the halves weren’t performed together until 1890, over three decades after their completion–in fact, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will only play the first, “The Fall of Troy,” in its concerts next week. Berlioz’s score isn’t as delirious and over-the-top as his Symphonie fantastique, though it is full of mercurial shifts in mood and colorful high drama. At times it harks back to the classicism of Gluck, especially in the vocal parts–the soloists convey a tremendous intensity of feeling not by overemoting but by struggling visibly to maintain their nobility and reserve. The libretto–also written by Berlioz–tells a story familiar to any student of the classics: Cassandra, daughter of Priam, the Trojan king, prophesies that misfortune will befall her city if it takes in the giant wooden horse left by the retreating Greek army. But the people insist on bringing the horse inside their walls, and the resulting slaughter leaves only a few survivors, among them the hero Aeneas and his son; not so fortunate is Choroebus, Cassandra’s lover. The Chicago Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Duain Wolfe, will serve as the voice of the people, and the top-notch soloists include soprano Deborah Voigt as Cassandra, tenor Jon Villars as Aeneas, and baritone Roman Trekel as Choroebus. Zubin Mehta conducts. The libretto will be sung in the original French, with English supertitles. Thursday through Saturday, February 8 through 10, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Bachrach/Steven Speliotis.