Berlioz's Semi-Operas

Berlioz's Semi-Operas

Roméo et Juliette and La damnation de Faust

Daniel Albright


University of Rochester Press



A full-length study of two of Berlioz's most unique works, which combine the highest goals of both symphony and opera and incorporate two of the greatest classics of Western literature into a total fusion of the arts.
This work studies two works that are among the most challenging of the entire Romantic Movement, not least because they assault the notion of genre: they take place in a sort of limbo between symphony and opera, and try to fulfill the highest goals of each simultaneously. Berlioz was a composer who strenuously resisted any impediments that stood in the way of complete compositional freedom. Most of his large-scale works nevertheless obey the strictures of some preexistent form, whether opera or symphony or mass or cantata; it is chiefly in these two experiments that Berlioz allowed himself to be Berlioz.
One of the central characteristics of Romanticism is the belief that all arts are one, that literature, painting, and music have a common origin and a common goal; and this book tries to show that Berlioz achieved a Gesamtkunstwerk, a fusion of arts, in a manner even more impressive (in certain respects) than that of Wagner, in that Berlioz implicated into his total-art-work texts by two of the greatest poets of Western literature, Shakespeare and Goethe.
The method of this book is unusual in that it pays equally close attention to the original text [Romeo and Juliet and Faust] as well as to the musical adaptation; furthermore, it suggests many analogues in the operatic world which Berlioz knew -- the world of Gluck, Mozart, Mehul, Spontini, Cherubini -- in order to show exactly how Berlioz followed or flouted the dramatic conventions of his age. This book aims to contribute to Berlioz studies, to studies of the Romantic Movement, and to the rapidly growing field of comparative arts.

Daniel Albright is Richard L. Turner Professor in the Humanities at the University of Rochester.


September 2001
2 black and white illustrations
168 pages
6x9 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580460941
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS028000, MUS050000, MUS020000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
From Shakespeare to Berlioz
Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette
Goethe's Faust
From Goethe to Berlioz
Berlioz's La damnation de Faust


Albright has written a literary essay of great originality and charm, appealing to undergraduates through faculty, general readers, and professionals in both music and the humanitites. CHOICE

Albright's work will inform and entertain admirers of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Berlioz alike. --Julian Rushton, West Riding Professor of Music, University of Leeds

The rhetoric is comfortable, modern, familiar. . . 132 affable, inviting pages. . . of its originality there can be no doubt. OPERA QUARTERLY

The originality of Albright's work lies in his unusual capacity to read texts and listen to music with a similar degree of sensitivity and insight and to detect the deeper resonance in structure and signification between the two without compromising their individuality. THE EUROPEAN ROMANTIC REVIEW, December 2003

This is a wonderful, concise, and compact discussion of two interesting and complex musical works of the Romantic period, exploring the historical and dramatic backgrounds of two of the more popular literary stories in human history. While written from the scholarly perspective, this book is easy to read and not overly technical in its presentation. OPERATODAY.COM [Dr. Brad Eden]

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