Mendelssohn & Berlioz: Nuits d’été

Festival Berlioz
Cour du château Louis XI
La Côte-Saint-André, France
9pm, Saturday 28 August

Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
John Eliot Gardiner - conductor

Jessica Cale soprano
Sam Cobb soprano
Lea Desandre mezzo-soprano
Cyrille Dubois tenor
Lionel Lhote baritone

Rebecca Lee Fairy/Titania/Hermia
Alexander Knox Puck/Lysander
Oscar Batterham Theseus/Oberon

​In August 2021, the Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and John Eliot Gardiner travelled to La Côte-Saint-André to perform at the annual Festival Berlioz.


Berlioz Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 21
Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Incidental music, Op. 61

The six pieces which make up Les nuits d’été reveal Berlioz’s refined melodic gift, conveying faithfully the intimate atmosphere of the poems of Théophile Gautier, with their themes of fragile, easily lost love, of death and its phantoms, and of voyages without return. The cycle will be performed in Berlioz’s original orchestrated version, with three different voices sharing the songs.

The second part of the programme unites Berlioz’s great friend Mendelssohn with one of the Frenchman’s cultural idols: ‘Shakespeare, falling thus unexpectedly upon me… astounded me. His lightning, in opening to me the firmament of art with a sublime thunderclap, illuminated the most distant depths. I recognized true grandeur, true beauty, dramatic truth’ (Mémoires, Chapter XVIII). Mendelssohn also held the Elizabethan playwright in devout admiration. He was a young man of 17 when he composed the overture to A midsummer night’s dream, to which he added a sequence of incidental music in 1843 at the request of King Frederick William IV of Prussia.

Berlioz heard Mendelssohn’s complete music for A midsummer night’s dream for the first time in 1846 and could not hold back his praise in a letter: ‘Allow me to say that I heard in Breslau your Midsummer Night’s Dream and that I have never heard anything so profoundly Shakespearean as your music; on coming out of the theatre I would willingly have given up three years of my life to be able to embrace you.’