Home / Works / Roman Carnival Overture (Hector Berlioz)

Print content of page

Roman Carnival Overture (Hector Berlioz)




Following the failure of Benvenuto Cellini at its premiere in 1838, the Paris Opéra closed its doors on the opera’s overly bold composer. Knowing the true worth of his material, however, Berlioz reused it in the Roman Carnival Overture in 1844, premiered at the Salle Herz on 3 February of the same year. Although its thematic material has nothing in common with the overture to the opera, it shares the same formal construction, replicated later in Berlioz’s Le Corsaire overture and the overture to Béatrice et Benedict: the piece begins with a few exuberant bars, followed by a slow section, then a quick section. The music is based on material taken from Act I (going by the structural division of the original version), particularly the duet between Cellini and Teresa, which becomes a quicksilver trio (the two lovers are spied on by Fieramosca). As the title implies, it also takes material from the carnival scene: a tarantella of sorts, whose melody is actually from the Gloria of the Messe solennelle. Although this overture could fall under the category of programme music, it does not “sum up” the plot of the opera, or even one of its episodes. Berlioz develops the thematic elements differently in order to paint a purely instrumental picture. The prominent role of the cor anglais (“a melancholy, dreamy and rather noble voice, with a somewhat subdued and distant tone”, according to Berlioz’s recently published Traité d’orchestration) and the viola section (also associated with “deep sadness”) illustrate the “expressive genre of instrumental music” so dear to Berlioz.

    Image - 1
  • Affiche du Grand festival dédié à la mémoire d'Hector Berlioz (22 mars 1870)
  • Works - 2
  • Benvenuto Cellini (Wailly & Barbier / Berlioz)
  • Messe solennelle (Hector Berlioz)
  • Person - 1
  • BERLIOZ, Hector (1803-1869)
  • Themes - 2
  • Concert – Les sociétés de concert au XIXe siècle
  • Lieux de musique – Salle Herz