One of Martin?’s 15 operas, this work is based on the surrealist play Juliette ou le clé des songes by Georges Neveux which the composer attended in Paris in the early 1930s. Martin? wrote his own libretto in French and the world premiere happened in Prague in 1938, Despite its success it would be a quarter-century before the opera was performed there again.
My chance to hear Julietta live was thwarted by the hip-to-ankle brace I was wearing when Leon Botstein conducted the American Symphony Orchestra in a March 2019 concert performance featuring Sara Jakubiak and Aaron Blake.
The very first opera LP I owned was highlights from the Otto Klemperer Die Zauberflöte which no doubt is responsible for my life-long affection for both Popp and Gundula Janowitz, neither of whom I had the chance to hear perform in person.
I did have a ticket to see Popp when she was to open Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 1986-87 season as Pamina in a new August Everding production but she withdrew and was replaced by Judith Blegen. Perhaps it was not a surprise as Popp had similarly bowed out of Lyric’s Meistersinger the previous season. Years later I learned to my chagrin that she had appeared with the Chicago Symphony many times from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s.
In 1967, Popp performed with the American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall as Amor in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. A pirate recording of that Orfeo exists but I’ve never had the courage to listen!
Popp’s US opera career otherwise consisted almost entirely of Mozart: 13 Queens of the Night (beginning with the premiere of the celebrated Marc Chagall production) and 11 Paminas at the Met, supplemented by just two Rosenkavalier Sophies there. A series of Nozze Susannas with the San Francisco Opera in 1982 proved to be her final opera appearances in this country.
Today’s Julietta—which is sung not in French or Czech but in German—was not the Slovak soprano’s last appearance at the Salzburg Festival where she debuted in 1963 as the First Boy in Zauberflöte. The next year, 1992, she returned for Mozart concert arias and the Nozze Countess. In November 1993 she died of brain cancer at 53.
I heard Hungarian tenor Gulyás soon after he debuted at the Met as the Rosenkavalier Italian Tenor in September 1985. The following month I came to New York to catch the company’s new Khovanshchina with Martti Talvela, Aage Haugland and Helga Dernesch in her first appearances with the company replacing the originally announced Florence Quivar as Marfa. Gulyás sang Andrei Khovansky, as he did again three years later in his final performances with the company.
His other prominent Met engagement proved to be accidental: after Neil Shicoff fell sick, Gulyás would sing the premiere, as well as six subsequent performances, of the new Jean-Pierre Ponnelle Manon in February 1987 opposite Catherine Malfitano. By the way, both Gregory Kunde and Jerry Hadley made their Met debuts during that run as Des Grieux, with Shicoff arriving just in time for the final two.
Like many others, Gulyás sang with Opera Orchestra of New York years prior to his Met debut. In 1981 he was again Andrei in Khovanshchina followed several months later by Viscardo in Mercadante’s Il Giuramento. a concert perhaps most notable as Mara Zampieri’s sole NYC appearance. Gulyás would also perform with the San Francisco Opera as Lensky and as Ferrando in Così fan Tutte opposite fellow Hungarian Etelka Csavlek as Fiordiligi.
Martin?: Julietta—in German
17 August 1991
Julietta: Lucia Popp
Kleiner Araber/1. Herr/Junger/Matrose: Nelly Boschkowa
Vogelhändlerin/2. Herr/Alte Frau/Hotelboy: Linda Watson
Fischhändlerin/3. Herr/Handleser/Alte Dame: Angelika Kirchschlager
Michel: Dénes Gulyás
Kommissar/Waldhüter/Traumberater: Helmut Wildhaber
Mann mit Helm/Händler mit Erinnerung/Bettler: Claudio Otelli
Mann am Fenster/Großvater/Sträfling: Hans Franzen
Alter Araber/Alter Mann/Alter Matrose/Nachtwächter: Matteo de Monti
Lokomotivführer: Tobias Cambensy
Conductor: Pinchas Steinberg
Julietta can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.
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