Berlioz in Paris

Théâtre-Lyrique

    The Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial, on the Place du Châtelet by the Seine, was inaugurated in 1862. The theatre was burnt down in 1871, but rebuilt on the same plan: the theatre one sees nowadays thus closely resembles the building of Berlioz’s time.

    It was at the recently opened Théâtre-Lyrique that Les Troyens received its first performance on 4 November 1863, and then ran for a total of 21 performances until 20 December. The performances were a relative success – they enabled Berlioz to give up at long last his burdensome work as music critic. But it was not the performance that Berlioz had intended: Les Troyens had been meant for the Opéra, the only theatre in Paris with the resources capable of staging adequately the work. The performances at the smaller Théâtre-Lyrique were a very unsatisfactory compromise, which damaged the work’s future for a long time to come. The opera was presented in a truncated form, shorn of its first two acts (which Berlioz never heard performed), renamed Les Troyens à Carthage, and with numerous cuts in the 3 acts that were played.  Berlioz relates at length the whole painful experience in his Memoirs (Postface). See also a review of the première of Les Troyens, published in Le Monde Illustré 14 November 1863 (in French).

    The first complete performance of Les Troyens was at the Großherzogliches Hoftheater in Karlsruhe, Germany on 6 and 7 December 1890, conducted by Felix Mottl (Acts 1-2 on the first evening, Acts 3-5 on the second).

    Berlioz’s adopted city Paris saw the first complete performances of Les Troyens in October 2003, when John Eliot Gardiner conducted it at the Théâtre du Châtelet, almost exactly 140 years after its première in a truncated version. Ironically, the Théâtre-Lyrique, now renamed Théâtre de la Ville, is located exactly opposite the Théâtre du Châtelet across the Place du Châtelet.

All the modern photographs reproduced on this page were taken by Michel Austin; other pictures have been scanned from newspapers and books in our own collection. © Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

Théâtre de la Ville (formerly Théâtre-Lyrique)

(Large view)

Théâtre de la Ville (formerly Théâtre-Lyrique)

(Large view)

Théâtre-Lyrique in 1863

(Large view)

The above engraving was published in the December 15 issue of L’Illustration, 1863.

Großherzogliches Hoftheater, Karlsruhe 

(Large view)

The Großherzogliches Hoftheater, later named Badisches Staatstheater, was built in 1849-1853 and opened on 17 May 1853. It was destroyed in September 1944 by allied aerial bombardment. For further details see the page on Felix Mottl.

Théâtre du Châtelet

(Large view)

Théâtre du Châtelet

(Large view)

Place du Châtelet in 1898

(Large view)

This picture has been scanned from John L. Stoddards Lectures, Volume V – Paris La Belle France and Spain, by John L. Stoddard (Balch Brothers, 1898).

© 2000-2014 Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin for all the pictures and information on this page.

Copyright notice: The texts, photos, images and musical scores on all pages of this site are covered by UK Law and International Law. All rights of publication or reproduction of this material in any form, including Web page use, are reserved. Their use without our explicit permission is illegal.

Back to Berlioz in Paris main page