Love Lies in Carthage, but Duty Calls in Rome in Berlioz’s 5-Act Epic

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A lot was riding on the new production of Berlioz’s epic opera “Les Troyens” that opened at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, on Monday night. This staging by the director David McVicar is a co-production with the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Alla Scala in Milan and the San Francisco Opera. The Royal Opera’s “Troyens” is also a major event in the London 2012 Festival, and it will be shown in movie theaters worldwide in November.

Getting this sprawling, five-act opera on the stage has both inspired and confounded some of the best directors in the field. Mr. McVicar’s production, with sets by Es Devlin and costumes by Moritz Junge, uses updated imagery to tell the story, drawn from Virgil’s “Aeneid.” Here are the valiant Aeneas, his pivotal encounter with the prophetic Cassandra and his consuming love affair with Queen Dido in Carthage. The look of the production suggests mid-19th-century Europe at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution....

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