Hector Berlioz Closes the OSM’s 85th Season

The OSM concludes its 85th regular season with concerts on May 29 and 31, and June 1 that mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz, one of most innovative composers of the Romantic period. Berlioz is no stranger to the OSM’s artistic programming: ever since the Orchestra’s first performance of his Symphonie fantastique in 1937, over 30 of his works have been performed in concert and 25 have been recorded, including the opera Les Troyens, awarded a Grammy in 1996. While the OSM has performed Berlioz’s famous Symphonie fantastique more than 130 times, Lélio has only been given on four occasions. This season-closing concert is a sublime opportunity to fulfill the composer’s wish to have Lélio presented “immediately after the Symphonie fantastique, of which it is the conclusion and the complement.” Under the direction of Kent Nagano, the performance brings together the OSM Chorus, the voices of extraordinary soloists, and the exceptional French actor Lambert Wilson in the title role of Lélio.

Berlioz’s amorous passion for the Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson lies at the root of these two complementary works of autobiography and romance. The symphony – and what a symphony! – is Berlioz’s declaration of love for Harriet, allying reality and the supernatural in a fantastical unity, the figure of the beloved represented by an obsessive melody: the idée fixe. Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie (Lelio, or the Return to Life) was also designed to “shake up the musical world in a strange way.” It is a semi-theatrical “lyric monodrama” combining declamatory texts by Goethe, Shakespeare, and Berlioz himself and more intimate airs with piano and grand-scale numbers with chorus and orchestra.

Berlioz’s music is powerfully evocative; it transports us to an unusual but always fascinating poetic universe. Throughout this prodigious journey, the idée fixe will be your guide, like a dramatic character, the connecting thread throughout the concert. The melody is heard in the opening work by Liszt, L’idée fixe, Andante amoroso d’après une mélodie de Berlioz. It reappears consistently throughout the Symphonie fantastique and shows itself more furtively at the beginning and conclusion of Lélio, ineffable and bewitching. Do not miss this fantastic event!