The Juniper Tree (opera)

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The Juniper Tree
Opera by
Philip Glass in Florence, Italy - 1993.jpg
Glass in 2006
LibrettistArthur Yorinks
Based onBrothers Grimm fairy tale
December 11, 1985 (1985-12-11)

The Juniper Tree is an opera co-composed by Philip Glass[1] and Robert Moran[2] in 1985 to a libretto by Arthur Yorinks based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.[3]

The opera is in two acts and is scored for two baritones, bass, mezzo-soprano, four sopranos, tenor, mixed chorus, children's voices and chamber orchestra.[3] Each composer wrote alternating scenes and utilized each other's themes to provide structural unity. Glass retained ownership of the opera, and did not allow for the "live" recording of the premiere (with Jayne West and Sanford Sylvan) to be released until 2009. Until then, Moran encouraged his fans to distribute bootleg copies so that people could hear it.

Performance history[edit]

It was premiered on December 11, 1985, at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[4]

For its 25th anniversary of creation, the Théâtre des Petites Garnottes [fr] presented the Canadian premiere of the opera in September, 2010 at the Salle Jean-Paul Tardif in Quebec, Canada.[citation needed]

In 2017 the opera premiered in the UK in a small theatre in Twickenham.[citation needed][importance?]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, December 11, 1985 (Conductor: Richard Pittmann)
The husband lyric baritone Sanford Sylvan
His wife lyric soprano Jayne West
The son/the juniper bird boy soprano Lynn Torgove
The stepmother mezzo-soprano Valerie Walters
Her daughter soprano Janet Brown
The goldsmith bass David Stoneman
The cobbler baritone Thomas Derrah
The miller tenor William Cotton
Village folk chorus
Mama bird soprano
Baby birds children's voices


The Grimm fairy tale tells of a wicked stepmother who murders her stepson, fearing that he reminds her husband of his late wife and serves him up in a stew to his hungry, unsuspecting father. The boy's sister buries her brother's bones under a juniper tree where their mother is buried, and the child's spirit returns as a singing bird who wreaks vengeance on the evil stepmother (dropping a millstone on her) before being restored to life in the bosom of his family.[5]


  1. ^ "Philip Glass – The Juniper Tree (1985) – Music Sales Classical". Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  2. ^ "Music: The Juniper Tree". Philip Glass. 1985-12-11. Archived from the original on 2014-10-28. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  3. ^ a b Kozinn, Allan (2007-03-23). "When a Bird Sings an Aria, You'd Be Wise to Duck". The New York Times.
  4. ^ John Rockwell (1985-12-15). "Opera – Glass-Moran Juniperi Tree, in Cambridge". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  5. ^ Archived July 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine