A Village Romeo and Juliet

A Village Romeo and Juliet is an opera by Frederick Delius, the fourth of his six operas. The composer himself, with his wife Jelka, wrote the English-language libretto based on the short story Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe by the Swiss author Gottfried Keller. The first performance was at the Komische Oper Berlin on 21 February 1907, as Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe. Thomas Beecham conducted the British premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London on 22 February 1910.[1] The US premiere was on 26 April 1972 in Washington, D.C.[2]

While the opera has rarely been staged, the orchestral interlude between Scenes 5 and 6, "The Walk to the Paradise Garden", is heard separately in concerts and has been recorded many times.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 21 February 1907
(Conductor: Fritz Cassirer)[3]
Manz baritone
Marti baritone
Sali, son of Manz as a child soprano
Sali, son of Manz as a man tenor Willi Merkel[3]
Vreli, daughter of Marti soprano Lola Artôt de Padilla[3][4][5]
The dark fiddler baritone Desider Zádor[6]
Two peasant men baritones
Three peasant women sopranos
Gingerbread woman soprano Minnie Egener[6]
Wheel of fortune woman soprano
Cheap jewellery woman mezzo-soprano
Merry-go-round man baritone
Slim girl soprano
Wild girl mezzo-soprano
Poor horn player tenor
Hunchbacked bass player bass

The premiere of the English version featured Walter Hyde as Sali; Ruth Vincent as Vrenchen (Vreli); Robert Maitland as the Black Fiddler (sic); Harry Dearth as Manz; Dillon Shallard as Marti; Muriel Terry as the young Sali and the Wild Girl; Betty Booker as the young Vrenchen and the Slim Girl; Arthur Royd as the Poor Horn Player; and Albert Archdeacon as the Hunchback Bass Player.[7]


The opera is in six scenes.

At the beginning of the opera, Sali, son of the farmer Manz, and Vrenchen (Vreli), daughter of the farmer Marti, are children. They are playing together one September morning on a plot of land. The Dark Fiddler is the rightful owner of this disputed land, but because he is illegitimate and thus without legal rights, he cannot exert control over the land. He appears to the children and warns them that the land must not be tilled. Manz and Marti dispute ownership of the land, and put a stop to the relationship between their respective children.

Six years later, at Marti's now run-down house, Sali and Vrenchen plan a meeting. Since their childhood, a lawsuit about the land has ruined both Manz and Marti. Sali persuades Vrenchen to meet him on the plot. The Dark Fiddler re-appears once more and invites them to join him. He also tells them that, regardless, they will meet again. Marti sees the two lovers and takes Vreli away. In trying to stop Marti, Sali injures him severely. As a result, Marti loses his reason and must be confined in an asylum. Sali returns and sees Vreli at her house, which is to be sold. The two declare their love and decide to leave together.

At a local fair, Sali and Vreli buy rings. Sali mentions an inn, the Paradise Garden, where they can dance all night, and they go there. The Dark Fiddler and some vagrants are drinking there. He greets the lovers, and suggests they join him to share a vagabond life in the mountains. Instead, Sali and Vreli decide that they cannot live such an existence, and they resolve to die together, uncompromising in their love for each other. They leave the inn and find a hay barge, which they release from the dock to begin to float down the river. As the Dark Fiddler observes them, Sali removes the plug from the bottom of the boat, and Sali and Vreli sink with the boat.


Year Cast Conductor,
Opera house and orchestra
1948Rene Soames,
Vera Terry,
Gordon Clinton,
Denis Dowling,
Frederick Sharp
Sir Thomas Beecham,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: EMI Classics,
Cat: ??
1971Robert Tear,
Elizabeth Harwood,
John Shirley-Quirk,
Benjamin Luxon
Meredith Davies,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
John Alldis Choir
Audio CD: EMI Classics,
Cat: ?[8][9]
1989Arthur Davies,
Helen Field,
Thomas Hampson,
Stafford Dean,
Barry Mora
Sir Charles Mackerras,
ORF Symphony Orchestra
Arnold Schönberg Choir
Audio CD: Decca,
Cat: 430 275-2
Dana Moravkova,
Michel Dlouhy,
Thomas Hampson,
Katerina Svobodova,
Jan Kalous
Petr Weigl movie
(Video recording, using the Mackerras recording for its soundtrack)
DVD Video: Decca,
Cat: B-0000-838-09
1995Eva-Christine Reimer,
Karsten Russ,
Klaus Wallprecht,
David Midboe,
Attila Kovacs
Klauspeter Seibel,
Kiel orchestra, Kiel chorus
(Recording of a performance in Kiel, Germany, sung in German)
Audio CD: company??
Cat: CPO 999 328-2



  1. Redwood 1975.
  2. Ashbrook 1991.
  3. The Musical Times 1907.
  4. Biography Artot de Padilla biography
  5. Opera Almanac
  6. Casaglia, Gherardo (2005)."A Village Romeo and Juliet, 21 February 1907". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  7. "Music – Royal Opera Covent Garden", The Times 23 February 1910, p. 13
  8. Anderson 1973.
  9. Anthony Payne, Review of recording of "Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet". Tempo (New Series), 106, pp. 53'54 (1973).
  10. Liukkonen, Petri. "Gottfried Keller". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015.


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