Last evening Stephanie and I went to the English National Opera production of Julietta. Now if you are like me, visions of Romeo and Juliet, colourful costumes and classical set design springs to mind. Not so. Julietta, based on the play Juliette, or The Key of Dreams by French author Georges Neveux, is a modern opera written by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů and first performed in 1938. To say that I was not prepared for this experience is an understatement.
It’s funny how we (I for certain) have compartments in our mind about what certain things “should” be like. My little opera compartment is mostly filled with experiences of seeing classical opera (Carmen, Madame Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Tosca, La Boehme, Don Giovanni, etc.) I am used to memorable arias by famous tenors and sopranos, lots of marching about the stage in glamorous costumes, and a chorus of jubilant singers adding to the mix.
Modern opera is very different. It seems to me that in modern opera the melodic arias are few and far between, being replaced by dialogue (half-spoken, half-sung) and visually stunning set design. And the story in modern operas is more important than the singing; usually a blend of mystical, mysterious and philosophical ideas about life, love and, in the case of Julietta, dreams. And the staging and set design is definitely modern, if not surrealistic.
Click on the above picture of Julietta to see the ENO video trailer.
But I must say, I stayed awake the entire time, curious to find out just what in this production was a dream and what was reality. And the story is haunting. A man is enchanted by a young girl he saw only once singing from her open window and thereafter dreams of her every night. He dreams so intently and longingly that his dreams began to crowd out his reality. You have to see the opera to fully appreciate his longing.
Anyway, Stephanie and I had a good time together. She loved the performance and her favourite conductor, Edward Gardner was at the podium (we sat directly behind him in the first row – her favourite seat -A12).
All in all a good Daddy-Daughter night out and another learning experience for me. Who says old dogs can’t . . . ?
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress