Berlioz and the excesses of Romanticism

The excesses of Romanticism, as discussed by Victor Klemperer, came to mind while reading this description of what happened when Berlioz’s fiancée called it quits:

During his stay in Italy, he received a letter from the mother of his fiancée informing him that she had called off their engagement. Instead her daughter was to marry Camille Pleyel (son of Ignaz Pleyel), a rich piano manufacturer. Enraged, Berlioz decided to return to Paris and take revenge on Pleyel, his fiancée, and her mother by killing all three of them. He created an elaborate plan, going so far as to purchase a dress, wig and hat with a veil (with which he was to disguise himself as a woman in order to gain entry to their home). He even stole a pair of double-barrelled pistols from the Academy to kill them with, saving a single shot for himself. Planning out his action with great care, Berlioz purchased phials of strychnine and laudanum to use as poisons in the event of a pistol jamming.

Despite this careful planning, Berlioz failed to carry the plot through. By the time he had reached Genoa, he “left his disguise in the side pocket of the carriage”. After arriving in Nice (at that time, part of Italy), he reconsidered the entire plan, deciding it to be inappropriate and foolish. He sent a letter to the Academy in Rome, requesting that he be allowed to return. This request was accepted, and he prepared for his trip back. (from wikipedia)

I guess this was the sort of thing Klemperer had in mind when he later wrote of ‘the characteristic feature of immoderation and the defying of all limits’, as apt a description of Berlioz as of Klemperer’s vision of the Romantic roots of the Nazism under which he suffered.

2 thoughts on “Berlioz and the excesses of Romanticism

  1. I hope he later turned it into an opera. I look forward to hearing his aria “Ho lasciato il mio travestimento nella tasca laterale del vagone ferroviario” (I have left my disguise in the side pocket of the railway carriage).

    • This could be just the thing to revitalise opera and have them pouring back through the aisles.

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