Martinu: Julietta

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Martinu
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Julietta
PERFORMER: Maria Tauberová, Ivo Žídek, Antonín Zlesák; Prague National Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Jaroslav Krombholc
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3626-2 ADD Reissue (1965)
Julietta is arguably the most fascinating (and with the exception of The Greek Passion the greatest) of Martinu’s operas. It dates from 1936-7, when his musical language was fully formed and his inspiration flowed effortlessly. You will even find here some of the sonorities that resurface in the Fantaisies symphoniques of 1953. Georges Neveux’s play Julietta or La clé des songes (The Dream-Book) hovers between reality and illusion, and (to quote Martinu himself) has no plot in the accepted sense of the word. It centres around a young man’s search for a girl that he may once have encountered in this dream country. Its atmosphere is strong and its poetry haunts the listener.

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This studio recording followed a Prague production in 1963. Krombholc keeps things moving and powerfully conveys the dreamlike quality of the action. The cast is strong, with hardly a weak link, and the Julietta of Maria Tauberová and Michel of Ivo Žídek are particularly memorable. The three CDs of the 1993 transfer are reduced to two (the break coming at Scene 5 of Act II) and the sound is brighter and more firmly focused, with a very marginal loss of the gentler sonority that distinguishes the LP set. Robert Layton