Julien (opera)

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Julien, ou La vie du poète
Opera by Gustave Charpentier
Farrar and Caruso 4998800690 3700a7a7ba o - cropped.jpg
Enrico Caruso as Julien and Geraldine Farrar as Louise in the 1914 Metropolitan Opera production
Librettist Gustave Charpentier
Language French
Premiere 4 June 1913 (1913-06-04)
Opéra-Comique, Paris

Julien, ou La vie du poète (Julien, or The Poet’s Life) is a poème lyrique or opera by composer Gustave Charpentier. The work is devised in a prologue and four acts and uses a French libretto by the composer. Julien is a sequel to Charpentier's Louise (1900) and describes the artistic aspirations of Louise’s suitor Julien. The opera premiered in Paris at the Opéra-Comique on 4 June 1913.[1]

Background and performance history[edit]

Like Louise, Julien's plot is somewhat autobiographical and requires many characters and chorus roles, with the main female lead portraying four smaller characters in addition to the role of Louise. The opera integrates elements of an earlier piece, La Vie du Poète, a symphony-drama of 1888–1889. The chorus consists largely of filles du rêve (girls of the dream), fairies, and chimeras as well as various men's roles, mainly different kinds of working class men. Charpentier described how, except for the prologue, "Louise and the various characters who surround Julien are not so much real people as an exteriorized realization of their inner souls".

The opera was not well received at its premiere, although it did gain the admiration of Gabriel Fauré who admired its expressionist qualities.[2] Apart from two productions in 1914, one of which was at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City with Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso in the main roles, it had not been revived until 3 December 2000 when it had its German premiere. The production at the Theater Dortmund was directed by John Dew and conducted by Axel Kober.[3] There are no full-length recordings of the opera. However Julien's aria "La voix de la nuit" sung by Maurice Dutreix appears as the final track on the 1935 abridged recording of Louise (re-released in 2003 on Naxos Records).[4]


Charles Rousselière, who created the title role
Marguerite Carré, who created the role of Louise
Role Voice type Premiere Cast[5]
4 June 1913
(Conductor: Albert Wolff)
Julien tenor Charles Rousselière
Louise/Beauty/homeless woman/young girl/old woman soprano Marguerite Carré
Hiérophante/peasant/mage baritone Raymond Boulogne
Painter baritone Andal
Bell ringer tenor Maurice Cazeneuve
Acolyte tenor Georges-Louis Mesmaecker
Student bass Éloi de Roqueblave
A bourgeois soprano Berthe Marietti
A bourgeois tenor Daburon
First grisette mezzo-soprano Pla
Second grisette mezzo-soprano Marguerite Julliot
Voice from the abyss/officer tenor Eugène de Creus
First comrade/Another voice from the abyss/stone breaker/ bass Ernest Dupré
Second comrade/logger/bohemian tenor Maurice Capitaine
Third comrade tenor Donval
Fourth comrade tenor Pasquier
First café waiter baritone Corbière
Second café waiter baritone Pierre Deloger
First dream ('Chimère') soprano Madeleine Ménard
Second dream soprano Le Fontenay
Third dream mezzo-soprano Germaine Gallot
Fourth dream/country-woman mezzo-soprano Germaine Philippot
Fifth dream mezzo-soprano Cécilie Thévenet
Sixth dream mezzo-soprano Alavoine
First girl of the dream soprano Marie Tissier
Second girl of the dream soprano Marie-Louise Arné
Third girl of the dream soprano Germaine Carrière
Fourth girl of the dream soprano Jeanne Calas
Fifth girl of the dream soprano Marguerite Villette
Sixth girl of the dream soprano Marini
Voice offstage mezzo-soprano Reynald
Girl soprano Pesier


Portrait of Charpentier by Edgar-Henri Boutry, painted in Rome in 1888
Time: 19th century
Place: Initially in Rome; then several others


Enthousiasme ("Filled with enthusiasm")

Julien, as a Prix de Rome winner, is studying in Rome at the Villa Medici. This resembles the life of Charpentier as he too was a Prix de Rome winner. However, after this point, the opera moves from the real world into the imagination until the final tableau, set in Montmartre, returns the plot to reality.

Act 1

Au pays du rêve ("In dreamland")

It contains three settings: the Holy Mountain, followed by a setting in the Accursed Valley, and lastly the Temple of Beauty.

Act 2

This takes place in the Slovakian countryside and follows Julien as he experiences doubts in creating his artwork.

Act 3

Impuissance ("Impotence")

This is located in Brittany's wild countryside.

Act 4

Ivresse ("Intoxication")

Set in Montmartre, it closes in the Place Blanche with the sudden appearance of the Temple of Beauty.[2]


  1. ^ Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5
  2. ^ a b Richard Langham Smith: "Julien", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed February 19, 2009), (subscription required)
  3. ^ Libération (5 December 2000). "Charpentier exhumé à Dortmund.". Retrieved 5 September 2014 (French).
  4. ^ OCLC 53707572
  5. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Julien ou La vie du poète". Almanacco Amadeus. Retrieved 5 September 2014 (Italian)

External links[edit]