by Bohislav Martinu translated by David Pountney.
London Coliseum St. Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES In rep to 3 October 2012.
27 Sept, 2, 3 Oct 7.30pm; 29 Sept 6.30pm.
BSL Signed 2 Oct.
Runs 3hr Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0871 911 0200.
Review: Carole Woddis 17 September.
This one you won’t forget.
One joy of opera at its best is the opportunity it affords to wallow in complete mise-en-scene. Sound, design, performance can combine to produce transcendent moments of theatre. So it is with Richard Jones’ production of Julietta by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu).
Julietta, written just before the outbreak of war, in 1938, is one of those ethereal works combining moments of lyric beauty, hallucinatory juxtapositions and a poignant sense of past lives never to be recalled that hint at old Europe before the Holocaust.
But nothing is quite that concrete. Based on the French surreal play, Juliette, ou La clé des songes by Georges Neveux, its entire premise is based on the notion of memory’s part in our identity and our yearning for love.
It’s a tenuous, existential, sometimes frightening world but I have never seen a play, including the past-masters of the French avant garde or Pirandello that so successfully evokes the dream-world of time-logged experiences that seem real in the moment, until you wake and discover you’ve been dreaming.
A young man wanders in a small seaside town looking for the railway station. He hears a sweet woman’s voice at the window and three years later returns to the small town to try to retrace her. But the people he encounters there have lost the ability to remember; they have no memories and need the young man’s to take for their own.
Thus ensues three hours of confusion for Michel, sung with glorious, limpid sweetness by tenor Peter Hoare, as he goes through a bewildering sequence of events culminating in his shooting of Julietta and a tussle to either remain within the dream world or return to `reality’.
Richard Jones, multi-award winner for such perspective-distorting creations as The Government Inspector at the Young Vic and Too Clever By Half at the Old Vic presides here over a production dominated by Antony McDonald’s stunning visual metaphor, an enormous, Cyclops inducing accordion.
All may be at sixes and sevens but it is wholly sustained by Martinu’s wonderful modernist stream of atonal yet melodic music mixed with spoken dialogue.
Michel Lepic, a book seller: Peter Hoare.
Julietta: Julia Sporsén.
Commissar/Postman/Clerk in the Bureau of Dreams: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts.
Man in a Helmet/Seller of Memories/Convict: Andrew Shore (Geoffrey Dolton, Oct 3).
Man at Window/Waiter/Beggar: Henry Waddington.
Little Arab/First Gentleman/Bell boy: Emilie Renard.
Old Arab/Grandfather/Old Sailor: Gwynne Howell.
Birdseller/Fortune teller/Old Woman: Susan Bickley.
Fishmonger/Grandmother: Valerie Reid.
Second Gentleman: Clare Presland.
Third Gentleman: Samantha Price.
Night Watchman: Steven Beard.
Young Sailor: Anthony Gregory.
Actors: Steven Beard, Peter Cooney, Ruth Eaton, Gary Holt, Ruth James, Suzy King, Toussaint Meghie, Tom Power, Paul Tate, Thomas Thoroe.
Director: Richard Jones.
Designer: Antony McDonald.
Lighting: Matthew Richardson.
Movement: Philippe Giraudeau.
Associate designer: Ricardo Pardo.
Conductor: Edward Gardner.
Chorus master: Martin Fitzpatrick.
Assistant conductor: Stephan Zilias.
Assistant chorus master: Genevieve Ellis.
First performance of Julietta was at the National Theatre Prague 16 March 1938.
The first UK performance was given on 5 April 1978 by the New Opera Company in association with ENO at the London Coliseum.
First performance of Richard Jones’ production: London Coliseum 17 September 2012.