Boris Blacher: Romeo and Juliet

  • Duration: 65’
  • Instrumentation details:
    fl., bs. - tpt. - pno. - string quintet
  • Choir: SATB (2- oder 3-fach besetzt)
  • Composer: Boris Blacher
  • Writer of pre-existing text: William Shakespeare
  • Text adapter: Boris Blacher

Work introduction

In 1943, at UE’s request, Boris Blacher composed Romeo und Juliet, a chamber opera in 3 parts, freely adapted from Shakespeare. Blacher took excerpts of the play, which are essential to the storyline – producing a concentrated version of Romeo and Juliet, which, through the music, aims more at allegory than pity. Blacher’s music is characterised by an economy of material, transparency and a draughtsmen’s clarity.

Minor details were consistently excluded. In accordance with the chamber style, the voices are led in a free narrative tone, which can appear both expressively heightened and lyrically restrained. Blacher, however, also intersperses a series of unsentimental German cabaret songs, which - owed to the time of its creation, he composed the work in 1943/44 - are not marked by sentimentalities, but by demise (these songs, however, were omitted at the world premiere in 1950 at the Salzburg Festival!). Blacher is not concerned with the great narrative, but with the loneliness of his characters. An important function is assumed by the harmonically and rhythmically very audacious soloist choir. This choir comments on and shapes the plot, takes on the role of several Shakespearean characters in an interplay and repeatedly draws attention to the fate of the lovers.

It is convenient to perform the chamber opera either in German or in English. The basis for the libretto written by Blacher was the German Shakespeare translations by Schlegel and the original English text by Shakespeare.

Synopsis: Romeo and Juliet meet at a ball, spend the night together on the balcony and get married secretly the next morning. The family intrigues of their parents finally lead to the fateful, tragic end.


Romeo and Juliet

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Salzburger Landestheater, Salzburg (AT)
Wiener Philharmoniker
Felix Krieger
Main soloists:
Richard Holm, Romeo; Hilde Güden, Julia; Sieglinde Wagner, Lady Capulet; Dagmar Hermann, Die Amme; Hermann Uhde, Capulet; Josef Witt, Tybalt; Kurt Böhme, Benvolio; Erich Majkut, Peter; Hans Thimig, Richard Tomaselli, Hugo Lindinger, Drei Musikanten

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