Hector Berlioz in Paris
The series about historical places of opera art & culture. Get to know exciting excursion and travel ideas for opera lovers. This time: Hector Berlioz in Paris.
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Hector Berlioz in Paris
The 24-year-old Berlioz had been living in Paris for 7 years when he saw the Irish actress Harriet Smithson in a performance of Hamlet at the Odéon Theater in Paris in 1827. Although Berlioz did not understand a word of English, he fell madly in love with the actress. He wrote her letters by the dozen, but she did not respond.
When he moved to his apartment on Rue de Richelieu, he often saw the actress from afar, as she lived in the neighborhood. Berlioz took English lessons, but the Irishwoman spurned the Frenchman.
The romantic Berlioz saw only one way out. Namely, to write a symphony to musically describe the madness that raged within him. With the work, which he called “Sinfonie fantastique,” he wanted to win the favor of the beautiful. For the premiere, he described his longings for love in a program note, thus founding the genre of program music.
But Harriet, to Berlioz’s dismay, did not appear at the premiere, but was already back on the British Isle. It was not until two years later that things worked out. Harriet appeared for the performance in the Salle du Consérvatoire. Berlioz played the timpani with disheveled hair and fixed his gaze on the actress, who was sitting in the audience.
What became of the couple, you may ask? Harriet was smitten and she fell in love with the romantic artist. The two married against the wishes of their families, the best man being Franz Liszt. A child was born, but the union did not last long; soon they began to quarrel and separated after a few years.
Berlioz remained attached to her and supported her until the end of her life. Years after her death, he had her reburied in Montmartre Cemetery, where he was buried next to her.
Destination Salle du consérvatoire
This hall still exists today, but it is no longer a hall for symphony concerts. A commemorative plaque recalls this memorable evening.
Salle du consérvatoire:
Destination Montmartre cemetery
Berlioz’s simpler tomb was later replaced by a more monumental version.
The grave of Hector Berlioz:
Café de la Paix
This traditional, upscale restaurant from 1862 is located opposite the Opéra Garnier, making it a frequented restaurant for artists such as Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Massenet and Dhiaghilev. The furnishings and décor of the restaurant are in the prestigious Second Empire style.