- — Mark Tiarks/

In 1827, French composer Hector Berlioz saw Irish actress Harriet Smithson as Juliet in an Englishlan­guage production of Romeo and Juliet at Paris’ Théâtre de l’odéon. He immediatel­y became obsessed with both Shakespear­e and Smithson, started planning a large-scale work based on the tragedy, and convinced the reluctant Smithson to marry him in 1833. Their relationsh­ip succeeded only marginally better than that of Shakespear­e’s “star-crossed lovers” — they separated several years later — but Roméo et Juliette, which premiered in 1839, was one of Berlioz’ supreme achievemen­ts.

It will be performed on Sunday, Feb. 19, by the Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus, with a total musician count of 174, quite possibly a record for the Lensic Performing Arts Center stage. Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa leads the orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists Rebecca Robinson (mezzo-soprano), John Tiranno (tenor), and Adrian Smith (baritone) in the kind of sweeping, full-length work Santa Fe seldom gets to enjoy.

Berlioz intentiona­lly set out not to write a standard operatic treatment of the well-known story and triumphed admirably. His title characters are portrayed by the orchestra rather than by singers, and he drew musical inspiratio­n from two Beethoven symphonies, rather than operatic models.

The “Pastoral” Symphony, No. 6, with its depiction of folk dancing, a thundersto­rm, a flowing brook, and multiple bird types, convinced him that an orchestra could portray real-life activities. From the “Choral” Symphony, No. 9, Berlioz drew the idea of using very large choral forces but delaying their full usage until the work’s finale. Most of Shakespear­e’s subplots were eliminated to focus on the doomed lovers’ drama. About 60 percent of the score is for orchestra only, and the sole vocalist with a major role is Friar Lawrence, whose dramatic aria in the final section leads the warring families to reconcile.

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, Lensic Performing Arts Center,211 W. San Francisco St., $22-$80, 505983-1414, santafesym­

 ?? ?? Hector Berlioz (1832)
Hector Berlioz (1832)

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