Staging the Musical Imagination

Program & Artists

7 PM Performance with commentary by Leon Botstein

Hector Berlioz
Symphonie fantastique: Episode de la vie d’un artiste, Op. 14
Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie, monodrame lyrique, Op. 14b

Leon Botstein conductor
Joshua Blue tenor
Alfred Walker baritone
Bard Festival Chorale
James Bagwell choral director


Presented by the Bard Music Festival

The 2024 Bard Music Festival will explore the many strands of Hector Berlioz’s contributions and his crucial role in the musical life of nineteenth-century Europe and of today.

Program One launches the festival with the rare opportunity to hear Berlioz’s most famous work as he intended: paired with its little-known sequel. Written just three years after Beethoven’s death, the Symphonie fantastique revolutionized the symphonic form for the Romantic age. Through its detailed, semi-autobiographical program note; its unifying and mutating principal theme, or idée fixe; and vast forces that include instruments previously confined to the opera house, Berlioz took the genre to a newly theatrical realm to chronicle the unrequited love that drove him to visions of suicide, murder, and gothic horror.

Pathbreaking, of seminal importance, and enduringly popular, the symphony nonetheless finds its “conclusion and complement” in Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie, its seldom-programmed sequel. Featuring spoken monologues, vocal soloists, mixed chorus, and a conclusion inspired by The Tempest, this boldly experimental, genre-defying work revisits the story and idée fixe of Berlioz’s symphony, recounting the artist’s “return to life” through his love of literature and music.

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