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date: 13 July 2020

Village Romeo and Juliet, A [Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe]locked

  • Robert Anderson

Extract

[Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe]

Lyric drama in six pictures (or scenes) by Frederick Delius to his own libretto after Gottfried Keller’s novel; Berlin, Komische Oper, 21 February 1907.

Work on the libretto for Delius’s fourth opera began in 1897. Delius first asked Charles Keary to produce an English text. Unhappy with the result, he turned to Karl-August Gerhardi in 1898 for a draft in German. He then resumed negotiations with Keary before deciding to attempt an English libretto himself. This was completed in 1899. The German translation for the first edition of the vocal score (c1906), with piano part by Florent Schmitt, was by Jelka Delius.

Keller based his story on a report in the Zürcher Freitagszeitung of 3 September 1847. It told how a young man of 19 and girl of 17 had fallen in love but failed to win their parents’ consent because of mutual enmity. The young couple had danced one evening in a local inn; the next day they were found dead in a nearby meadow. Keller elaborated the story, making much of the parents’ quarrel over land belonging rightfully to an illegitimate fiddler who could not inherit under Swiss law. Delius used the parental enmity only in so far as it made the marriage of the young couple impossible. The Dark Fiddler was given an altogether more sinister role, as embodiment of the cruel fate that brings about the suicide of the lovers. At the end Delius has unseen bargemen emphasize the frailty of earthly happiness. Delius did concentrated work on the music during ...

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