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UnTuxed Rehearsals

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

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UNTUXED: Attend an open rehearsal and experience a look behind the scenes of the WSO.

Saturday March 18, 2023 @ 12:30 pm

Hector Berlioz:
Symphonie fantastique

In 1827, 23-year-old Hector Berlioz attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Odéon Theatre in Paris. Harriet Smithson, a charismatic Irish actress, was playing Ophelia. Berlioz was smitten and wrote her an impassioned letter. Smithson did not reply. Undeterred, he continued to bombard her with messages but she left Paris without responding.

Berlioz wrote to a friend: “You don’t know what love is, whatever you may say. For you, it’s not that rage, that fury, that delirium which takes possession of all one’s faculties, which renders one capable of anything.”

The composer had to find an outlet for his obsessive love – music. He landed on the idea of a “fantastic symphony” portraying an episode in the life of an artist who is constantly haunted by the vision of the perfect, unattainable woman.

Symphonie fantastique was premiered in 1830 but Smithson did not hear the work until 1832, when she realized she might be the inspiration for it. Intrigued, she agreed to meet the composer and was blown away by the force of his emotion.

Despite neither speaking the other’s language, Harriet and Hector married on October 3, 1833. Sadly, the obsession faded and they divorced seven years later.

Join music director Daniel Raiskin as he leads the WSO in a rehearsal of this fantastical work, and discover what it takes to prepare for a performance. Afterwards, the maestro will answer any questions you have about the work or the rehearsal process in a short Q&A.

UNTUXED: A unique and casual way to experience the WSO all in one hour.

*Please note this is a working rehearsal. The orchestra may not perform the work the whole way through. The conductor may start and stop the orchestra and discuss things with the musicians.



Performing Artists

Daniel Raiskin, conductor