Falling in love can cause sleeplessness and weight loss – or the Symphonie fantastique. Tormented by the waves of passion, the Artist comes to life as Lélio in a piece that Berlioz composed as a sequel to his Symphonie fantastique. This is the first time that the two pieces, which the composer intended as a pair, will be performed together in Finland.
Klaus Mäkelä (b. 1996) is one of the latest links in the celebrated chain of Finnish conductors. Like Salonen, Saraste, Vänskä and Mälkki, he studied in the legendary class of Jorma Panula and his career has traced a steep upward curve in the past five years. Having toured virtually all the Finnish orchestras, he has also won acclaim abroad with, among others, the Orchestre de Paris, the Munich Philharmonic, the Tokyo Metropolitan, the Cleveland Orchestra and the London Philharmonic. He began as Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in autumn 2018 and is Chief Conductor & Artistic Advisor Designate of the Oslo Philharmonic as of 2020. He also has a close relationship with the HPO, having conducted it twice in 2017 already and been invited back again and again.
Another reason for his close ties with the HPO is that he has also played in its ranks as a cellist. “It has been an extremely valuable experience for me,” he says, “playing the cello in the orchestra and seeing how a conductor works at close quarters. It’s been like a second conducting school for me.”
Follow Klaus Mäkelä on Twitter @KlausMakela
Born in Athens in 1967, Mario Zeffiri initially studied law at the University of Athens before making an international career as a singer. Renowned for his early 19th century bel canto style, he has sung the heroic roles in operas by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti at all the great Italian opera houses, was awarded the prestigious title of Kammersänger by the Europäische Kulturwerkstatt (EKW) in 2015 and made his New York Metropolitan debut the following year. He sang in Il viaggio a Reims at the Finnish National Opera in 2003 and in the opera Kustaa Vaasa at the Helsinki Music Centre in 2018.
Praised by Bernard Levin in The Times for a voice of great velvet beauty, Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg began his career as an early-music specialist. He has since branched out into opera, Lied and symphonic repertoire both Romantic and contemporary, in a career that has taken him from La Scala to the New York Metropolitan and brought appearances with major orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic. His discography runs to some 30 items. He last sang at the Helsinki Music Centre in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the FRSO but tonight’s performance marks his HPO debut.
Though possibly best known now as a theatre director, Erik Söderblom first studied music, philosophy and history of art in Helsinki, before opera direction in Munich. Music and opera have remained a prominent part of his career, in addition to teaching at Helsinki’s Theatre Academy, stage directing at various Finnish theatres and serving as CEO and Artistic Director of the Helsinki Festival. Since 2017, he has been Artistic Director of the Espoo City Theatre. His brother Jan is I leader of the HPO and their father, Ulf, was for many years conductor of the Finnish National Opera.
Hector Berlioz (1803–1869): Symphonie fantastique Op. 14 (1830)
“PROGRAM of the Symphony [2nd version]
A young musician of morbidly sensitive temperament and fiery imagination poisons himself with opium in a fit of lovesick despair. The dose of the narcotic, too weak to kill him, plunges him into a deep slumber accompanied by the strangest visions, during which his sensations, his emotions, his memories are transformed in his sick mind into musical thoughts and images. The loved one herself has become a melody to him, and ideé fixe as it were, that he encounters and hears everywhere.
Part I / Reveries – Passions: He recalls first that soul-sickness, that vagues des passions, those depressions, those groundless joys, that he experienced before he first saw his loved one; then the volcanic love that she suddenly inspired in him, his frenzied suffering, his jealous rages, his returns to tenderness, his religious consolations.
Part II / A Ball: He encounters the loved one at a dance in the midst of the tumult of a brilliant party.
Part III / Scene in the Country: One summer evening in the country, he hears two shepherds piping a ranz des vaches in dialogue; this pastoral duet, the scenery, the quiet rustling of the trees gently brushed by the wind., the hopes he has recently found some reason to entertain – all concur in affording his heart an unaccustomed calm, and in giving a more cheerful color to his ideas. But she appears again, he feels a tightening in his heart, painful presentiments disturb him – what if she were deceiving him? – One of the shepherds takes up his simple tune again, the other no longer answers. The sun sets – distant sound of thunder – loneliness – silence.
Part IV / March to the Scaffold: He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned to death and led to the scaffold. The procession moves forward to the sounds of a march that is now somber and fierce, now brilliant and solemn, in which the muffled sound of heavy steps gives way without transition to the noisiest clamor. At the end, the idée fixe returns for a moment, like a last thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow.
Part V / Dream of a Witches Sabbath: He sees himself at the sabbath, in the midst of a frightful troop of ghosts, sorcerers, monsters of every kind, come together for his funeral. Strange noises, groans, bursts of laughter, distant cries which other cries seem to answer. The beloved melody appears again, but it has lost its character of nobility and shyness; it is no more than a dance tune, mean, trivial, and grotesque: it is she, coming to join the sabbath. – A roar of joy at her arrival. – She takes part in the devilish orgy. Funeral knell, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, sabbath round-dance. The sabbath round and the Dies irae combined.”
Hector Berlioz (1803–1869): Lélio, or Return to Life Op. 14b (1831–1832/1855)
Note: Cet ouvrage doit être entendu immédiatemen aprés la Symphonie fantastique, dont il est la fin et le complément.
”I come now to the supreme drama of my life. I shall not recount all its sad vicissitudes. I will say only this: an English company came over to Paris to give a season of Shakespeare at the Odéon, with a repertory of plays then quite unknown in France. I was at the first night of Hamlet [11.9.1827]. In the role of Ophelia I saw Henriette [Harriet] Smithson, who five years later became my wife. The impression made on my heart and mind by her extraordinary talent, nay her dramatic genius, was equalled only by the havoc wrought in me by the poet she so nobly interpreted. That is all I can say.” (Berlioz: Memoirs, p. 95, trans. Edward T. Cone)
“After a period of calm violently disturbed by the composition of the Élegie en prose, which is the last of my Songs, I have just been plunged again into all the tortures of an endless and unquenchable passion, without cause, without purpose. She is still in London, and yet I seem to feel her around me; I hear my heart pounding, and its beats set me going like the piston strokes of a steam engine. Each muscle of my body trembles with pain. – Useless! – Frightening! –
Oh! Unhappy woman! If she could for one moment conceive all the poetry, all the infinity of such a love, she would fly to my arms, even if she must die from my embrace.” (Letter to Humbert Ferrand 6.2.1830, Lettres intimes, 1882, trans. Edward T. Cone)
“– – since my last letter, I have gone through some terrible squalls, my ship has cracked up badly, but it has at last righted itself: now it sails fairly well. Frightful facts, whose truth I cannot doubt, have started me toward a cure; and I believe that it will be as complete as my tenacious spirit can allow. I have just confirmed my resolution by a work that satisfies me completely. Here is its subject, which will be published in a program and distributed in the hall on the day of the concert.” (Letter to Ferrand 16.4.1830, Lettres intimes, 1882, trans. Edward T. Cone)
“Within a few years they were miserable. They were formally separated in 1844, and Harriet died in 1854. The same year Berlioz married Marie Recio (1814–62), a singer who had long been his mistress; he was not happy with her either. But these depressing events are not really germane to our narrative. The early history of the Fantastic Symphony should end on October 3, 1833, the wedding day of Hector Berlioz and his Henriette [sic], with the hope that the two live happily ever after.” (Edward T. Cone: Berlioz – Fantastic Symphony, p. 17, Chappell & Co. Ltd. 1971