Hector Berlioz is a French Romantic composer, who gained the world-wide recognition after creating his masterpiece “Symphonie Fantastique”. This groundbreaking piece of music reflects his tragic love story with a young actress. The composition consists of five parts, where step by step different emotional stages, which the lover experiences, being under the influence of opium are described.
The name of Hector Berlioz is strongly associated with a piece of revolutionary music “Symphonie Fantastique”. Though composed in 1830 it hardly preserved its original structure. Berlioz changed his masterpiece several times, adding or on the contrary, removing some parts. His work was influenced greatly by Beethoven, but the composer created his own ways of conveying the idea.
“The Symphonie” is based on the true story of composer’s love, romantic and tragic at the same time to a young actress Harriet Smithson. Passionate feeling burst out the moment he saw her play Ophelia in the production of “Hamlet” in 1827. However, the years of the impetuous romance and frantic meetings turned into the suspicion in being unfaithful. The whole range of feelings was expressed in the well-known piece of music.
The story tells about the young man, who after having experienced disappointment in love, found comfort in taking the drug, opium. It is does not lead to the fatal consequences, but nevertheless places him into the world of weird and visions (Hector Berlioz). The beloved girl is embodied in the melody – idée fixe, which cannot let go of the hero throughout the whole action.
Structurally the “Symphonie” is divided in to 5 parts, describing different themes. In the first part “Reveries. Passions” the main character contemplates about how melancholic and unclear his life used to be before meeting with the girl; and how volcanic and delirious it had become after the encounter. The next chapter brings us to the ball where the girl appears in front of the suffering man again. The third part “In the country” is a kind of a bridge between pleasant, yet sometimes uneasy reality and the nightmare – the peaceful state of soul is darkened with the troublesome premonition. In the following part “March to the Scaffold” the man dreams of killing his beloved. The last brief apparition of the idée fixe is cut off by the violent axe. The closing scene describes the ferocious dream where “Sabbath of Witches” takes place. Monsters of every kind and form unite to perform the ritual of the main character’s burial. The final frantic dance is accompanied by the blood freezing shrieks and sinister laughter.
Hector Berlioz. Preface to the score of Symphonie Fantastique (1830). Retrieved from