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Nataliya Kovalova as Juliette and Steve Davislim as Michel. Foto: Yunus Durukan


GENEVE: the production of the opera Juliette, or the Key of Dreams, by Bohuslav Martinu at Grand Theatre de Genève is like a dream, – And that is what it is.

This is a coproduction, which earlier has been shown first at Opera  Garnier, in 2002, then at Opera Bastille 2006, and now at Grand Theatre in Genève. Originally staged by Richard Jones, but in this version by Philippe Giraudeau, assisted by Didier Kerstein. The very good, imaginative decoration by Antony McDonald who too is responsible for the well working and costumes giving the right atmosphere to the places and figures in this dream opera. Original great light by Matthew Richardson reprised by Marc Anrochte.

Musically the performance is in the very best hands by Jirí Bèlohlávek assisted by Robert Reiner. I do feel the inspiration from Debussy.

Steve Davislim as Michel and Emilio Pons as Le Commissarie. Foto: Yunus Durukan

Juliette or the Key of Dreams is a three act opera designed to make its audience dream with their eyes open. It was first performed at the National Theatre in Prague 193, March 16th.

Bohuslav Martinu composed both the music and the libretto, basing his text on Georges Neveux´1927 surrealist play of the same name,

The play´s surrealist ideas and exaltation of the feminine caused a certain degree of scandal at it’s the Paris premiere in 1930.

When Martinu read the play, he decided to adapt it into, although the rights for an adaption had already been given to Kurt Weill. However. This did not stop Martinu; he played a piano sketch of his first act to Neveux, who then arranged for the rights to be transferred to the Czech composer.

The first performance of Juliette was a huge success, thanks to its high production values and the flawless conductor of the composer friend Vaclav Talich, to whom he dedicated the score.

Juliette ou la clé des songes. Scenography: Antony McDonald. Foto: Yunus Durukan

The action takes place neither in the real world, nor in an imaginary one, but in an equivocal border zone, where reality becomes fiction and fiction appears real.  The opera gravitates around the two-fold search for things past and the self, which begins when the hero, Michel, brilliant sung and performed by Steve Davislim, a travelling salesman visits a small coastal town in the south of France, where he hears a young woman playing piano and singing a love song. The memory of this young woman, Juliette, brilliantly sung and performed by Nataliya Kovalova(that we a month ago were reviewing as La Cenerentola at Palais Garnier). This memory haunts Michel on his way back to Paris, and over the course of the following years, and he decides to return to this returns to a town where past and future have ceased to exist.

Bohuslav Martinu’s opera Juliette, or La Clé des Songes, which had its Swiss première February 24th at the Grand Théatre of Geneva. Rarely given since its first performance in Prague in 1938, this work blends reality and fiction, romance and comedy in an outstanding production inspired by the surrealist artists of the 1930s, and stars the world-class Australian tenor Steve Davislim in his Geneva debut. However this is a co production with Opera de Paris, where it was performed in two periods 2002 and 2006.

I was very pleased once again to notice the internationality of the Grand Theatre de Genève, where this opera in Czech language was translated not only to French but also to English. That is how the International opera houses works. (They have not yet learned it in Paris!!!)


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