How if, when I am laid into the tomb”: An examination of Hector Berlioz's 1829 Prix de Rome submission, Cléopâtre, placing it within a historical, social, pathological, theoretical, and performance context


Using both primary and secondary source information from multiple disciplines and in-depth score analysis, this document will take a detailed look at the historical, social, psychological, pathological, musical, and performance context for Cléopâtre. The goals are threefold. First, such an exploration will give insight into Hector Berlioz’s compositional process, especially during the tumultuous years between 1827-30. Second, valuable historical, social, psychological, theoretical, and performance context will be given to a work that though has been heavily performed in the concert arena, has not been given due academic study. The final goal will consist of an attempt to determine if Cléopâtre serves as a compositional inspiration, template, or precursor to his future treatment of the tragic characters of Didon and Cassandre in his opera Les Troyens (1858). Regardless of whether there is success in proving the final point, this detailed research will give valuable insight into Berlioz’ compositional process and the social-historical context of Cléopâtre, thus aiding in the performance of the work and possibly also offer insight into the performance of Berlioz’s other tragic heroines, specifically Didon and Cassandre.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2026. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.



Berlioz, Prix de Rome, Cléopâtre, Cantata, Nineteenth Century