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A Symphonic Journey: France’s Call for Freedom


Marche Troyenne,” by Hector Berlioz, captures France's struggle between its ruling elites and its common people. Romantic operas such as the “Trojan March” inspired the rabble-rousing French to rise up for freedom and lead the charge to overthrow Europe’s old regime.

Complete Video Script

No tour of Europe, musical or otherwise, is complete without a stop in France, home of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and, in a lot of ways, the birthplace of modern Europe.

In the 19th century, France already had its independence. Its struggle was a domestic one between the haves and the have-nots, between royals and aristocrats and peasants, between elites and commoners. Through its revolutions — and they had several — the French led the call in Europe for the end of the old regime notion of divine monarchs. Until then, most people just accepted the notion that some people were born ordained by God to be rulers and the vast majority were born to be ruled.

The revolutionary slogan of the day was “Liberty, equality and fraternity.” And this slogan inspired those who longed for freedom all over romantic 19th-century Europe. And when they sang that slogan, it was more than just nation building, it celebrated personal freedoms and the notion of government by, for, and of the people.

This piece is typical of 19th-century French Romantic music, and when we listen to it, we can almost hear the rabble gathering in the streets and chanting, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” and, of course, “Vive la France!” This is an opera by Berlioz written in the 1850s. The “Trojan March.”