Juliette (The Key to Dreams) | The National Theatre Prague

Bohuslav Martinů’s opera Juliette (The Key to Dreams) is closely linked to the National Theatre in Prague, which gave its premiere on 16 March 1938, conducted by Václav Talich and directed by Jindřich Honzl, both major Czech artists of the first half of the 20th century. The libretto, written by Martinů himself in French, was based on the Surrealist author Georges Neveux’s play Juliette ou la Clé de songes, first performed at the Théâtre de l’Avenue in Paris in 1930 and staged two years later, in Jindřich Hořejší’s translation, at the Estates Theatre, directed by Jiří Frejka and featuring Jiřina Šejbalová and Eduard Kohout in the lead roles. In the spring of 1936, Martinů plunged into writing the Czech libretto and composing the music for Juliette, and completed the opera the next January. During that time, he corresponded with Jindřich Honzl and Václav Talich, who received the score in March 1937. The story takes places in the poetic and fantasy atmosphere of a dream, in which nothing makes sense yet concurrently everything comes across as real and bearing a certain meaning. The young Paris bookseller Michel arrives in a strange small town, in search of a young woman named Juliette, whose voice he once heard somewhere. His dream, however, gets out of hand, living a life of its own... The new production will be staged by the internationally renowned British actor and director Irina Brook, daughter of the legendary theatre-maker Peter Brook. Of late, she has gained acclaim with her opera adaptations at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Wiener Staatsoper.

Synopsis

Michel is a traveling salesman who stumbles across a seaside city where none of the residents remember their past. Michel is trying to find a woman whose voice he once heard in the wilderness. After his arrival in the town, he is elected to lead the town. He eventually does find the woman, named Julietta. However, it is not clear whether she is real or a product of his imagination. Eventually, Michel is provoked into shooting Julietta, but because of the ambiguity of the situation, it is not certain if she is dead. Later, at the "Central Office of Dreams", Michel is warned that if he does not wake up to escape the dream, he will be imprisoned in the dream-world forever. At the end of the opera, where the residents again go about their business oblivious to immediate past events, Michel remains in the dream-world.

Program and cast

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PreviousDecember 2020
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Prague National Theatre

The National Theatre today

 

The historical building of the National Theatre, constructed in 1883, is generally considered the prime stage in the CzechRepublic. It is the flagship of the National Theatre institution, today amounting to five buildings and encompassing four companies. You can see there Opera, Drama and Ballet performances.

 

Idea of building a stately theatre for the Czech nation

 

The National Theatre is the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for a national identity and independence. Collections of money among the broad mass of the people facilitated its construction and hence the ceremonial laying of its foundation stone on 16 May 1868 was tantamount a nationwide political manifestation.

 

The idea of building a stately edifice to serve as a theatre was first mooted in the autumn of 1844 at meetings of patriots in Prague. It began to materialise through a request for “the privilege of constructing, furnishing, maintaining and managing” an independent Czech theatre, which was submitted to the Provincial Committee of the Czech Assembly by František Palacký on 29 January 1845. The privilege was granted in April 1845. Yet it was not until six years later – in April 1851 – that the Society for the Establishment of a Czech National Theatre in Prague (founded in the meantime) made its first public appeal to start collections. A year later the proceeds of the first collections allowed for the purchase of land belonging to a former salt works with the area of less than 28 acres, which predetermined the magnificent location of the theatre on the bank of the river Vltava facing the panorama of Prague Castle, yet at the same time the cramped area and trapezoidal shape posed challenging problems for the building’s designers.
 

By car

To the centre (OldTown), approach on Masarykovo nábřeží (Masaryk embankment) in the direction from the Dancing House, at the crossroads in front of the National Theatre turn right to Divadelní street and then right again to Ostrovní street to the National Theatre car park. Parking costs 50 CZK/h.

 

By tram

By daytime trams Nos. 6, 9, 18 and 22 and night trams Nos. 53, 57, 58, 59 to the stop “Národní divadlo” – in front of the NT historical building; by daytime tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”.

 

By metro

To the station “Můstek”, line B (yellow), and then by foot on Národní street; or to the station “Karlovo náměstí” and then two stops by tram No. 6, 18 or 22 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. To the station “Staroměstská”, line A (green), and then two stops by tram No. 17 to the stop “Národní divadlo”. 

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