In his opera The Trojans, written in 1856-58, the French composer Berlioz turned to classical mythology. His libretto closely followed the Aeneid of Virgil whom he had worshipped since his boyhood days. However, the opera was so lengthy that Berlioz had to divide it into two parts and it was not performed in full until 1969, at Covent Garden under Colin Davis, a century after the composer’s death.

‘The Royal Hunt and Storm’ is the Interlude which precedes Act 4. The music which Berlioz wrote for this scene is unconventional, wonderfully imaginative and exquisitely scored, and has long been a concert favourite. 

The scene is set in an African forest. The opening is all atmosphere, tender and serene. Flutes and clarinets introduce a noble lyrical theme, before the calls of hunting horns are heard in the distance. The sky darkens, rain starts, and the storm grows into a tempest. Repeated hunting calls are heard amid the tumult of the elements. The huntsmen scatter in different directions. Dido, Queen of Carthage, appears, accompanied by the Trojan hero Aeneas. They enter a cave, where nymphs, satyrs and fauns perform grotesque dances in the darkness. Finally, the storm passes and the clouds lift. As calm returns, the serene woodwind theme reappears and ushers in a peaceful conclusion, with a final recall of the hunting horns.

With acknowledgments to H W Freyhan and Making Music

Composer:  Berlioz Wiki Link: Title of Musical Work:  Royal Hunt and Storm (from The Trojans)

London Concert Choir concerts featuring this musical work: