Opera Scotland

Chant des Chemins de Fer Le Chant des Chemins de Fer; The Song of the Railways

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Hector Berlioz (born La Côte St André, Isère, 11 December 1803; died Paris, 8 March 1869).


Jules Janin



First Performance: Lille (Gare de Lille), 14 June 1846.

First Performance in UK: tbc

First Performance in Scotland: Aberdeen (Music Hall), 14 May 1987 (perhaps earlier).



The Song of the Railways - a Cantata in B minor, op19 no3 - is a brief, ten minute long celebratory piece for tenor, chorus and orchestra. Consisting of just three verses, it was commissioned by the city of Lille to mark the opening, in 1846, of the city's shiny new railway station. As might be expected, it is a cheerful piece, full of bouncy rhythms, apart from a brief prayer section, and perhaps slightly reminiscent of the Marseillaise.

At its premiere, conducted by Berlioz himself, it was followed by a performance of the choral finale to the much grander and more solemn Symphonie Funèbre  et Triomphale.

Even in France performances have always been rare, but it was given an outing in Lille in 2004, when there was an opening ceremony to celebrate the city starting its year as European Capital of Culture.

The Cast


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