General information
Title CZOrchestrální suita z opery Juliette
Title ENOrchestral suite from the opera Juliette
Title DEOrchestrersuite aus der Oper Juliette
CategoryOrchestral Music
SubcategorySuites and Abstracts of the Incidental
Halbreich number253 B
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Poco andante - Poco moderato - Allegro - Poco andante; 2. Vivo - Molto meno mosso - Andante moderato - Poco allegretto; 3. Lento - Moderato - Allegro moderato - Poco vivo - Andante
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1937
Initiation of composition17.05.1936
Completion of composition24.01.1937
First performance
Autograph deposition
Note on the autograph depostitionSee H 253.
CopyrightSchott Music, Mainz
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note The suite was arranged by Zbyněk Vostřák in 1969.
About the composition

In May 1936 Martinů began work on a new opera titled Julietta aneb Snář , H 253 (Juliette, or The Key to Dreams). By this time he had already written seven operas. The idea of composing Julietta occurred to him in 1934 while he was working on another opera, Hry o Marii, H 236 (The Plays of Mary). At that time he became acquainted with the theatrical play Juliette, ou La clé des songs by the French dramatist Georges Neveux (1900-83), which enchanted him with its fascinating interpenetration of the real action with the fictive action of dreams. Martinů translated the play himself and shaped it into a libretto in the Czech language. He set the first act to music already before asking Neveux for permission to use his play. Neveux later wrote: "I'll never forget our first meeting. Martinů was already famous then. Darius Milhaud himself had described him to me as one of the greatest musicians of our time. And so I expected an imposing celebrity. Then I was very surprised to find myself standing before the most sincerely-humble man I had ever met. [...] I think there was an immediate affinity between Martinů and me. The sensitivity we sensed beneath his apparent calm, his rare charm, and his simplicity - all of that came from his homeland." Before receiving Martinů's request to set his play to music, Neveux was approached by an agent for Kurt Weill who wanted to treat Juliette as a musical comedy. Neveux gave Weill permission to use the play, but after meeting Martinů he changed his mind. He later recalled: "It was obvious that Martinů loved Juliette, and he enhanced the play in charm and depth. He made it into a masterpiece and I was dazzled by it." The premiere of the opera took place on 16 March 1938 in the National Theater in Prague. Sharing in the production were artistic "aces" of the time - stage director Jindřich Honzl, choreographer Josef Jenčík, set designer František Muzika, and conductor Václav Talich. Honzl characterized the opera as follows: "It is a work of the French spirit, in the sense that it presents a dream about insatiable longing and love for the dreamed Juliette, who is not replaced by the real Juliette - and that it presents this eternal and tragic story in a play that itself is a smile."

A week after the premiere Martinů wrote to Talich: "In these times when everybody places himself above the work of art it is so wonderful to realize that someone can be found who senses what the work requires and who can subordinate himself to it in a sense, as I, too, subordinated myself and sought to express the most secret, the most hidden, that is in art, in poetry - that fragile thing that can't bear to be touched other than by those who seek it and need it for their life and who approach it as the most beautiful thing that human life can give, and who want to recreate it, but accept it as it is, in the pure form of inexpressibility and absolute beauty where all human factors are superfluous. I was well aware of the danger, but nevertheless, I sought nothing other than to touch this beautiful vision at least in several places and nowhere to disturb the delicate magic that emanates from this dream, and I also knew about the great demands. That's why I'm so glad that in you I found understanding, that you showed the way to all those who worked with you, and that we all forgot about ourselves somewhat and submerged ourselves in this extraordinary dream."

Orchestral suite from the opera Juliette, H 253 B for large orchestra was created in 1969 by Zbyněk Vostřák, who selected a series of striking, self-contained orchestral sections from the score of the opera and joined them into a three-movement suite. His arrangement fully respects the composer's original version and adds no other musical elements to it. The first movement begins, like the overture to the opera, with the "dream" motive in an effective play of colors in a solo bassoon; the bassoon, English horn, and oboe are the main solo instruments of this movement. The second movement belongs to Julietta and her theme, which sounds for the first time in the flute after a short orchestral introduction. At the end of the third movement we hear a solo cello, which plays a major role in the whole opera. The conclusion of the suite dissolves like Michel's dream about the girl Julietta.

Lenka Foltýnová, programme of the Bohuslav Martinů Festival's concert, December 19–20, 2002

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