Makes me want to cut my throat too

Philippe Boesmans’ opera Julie; libretto by Luc Bondy and Marie-Louise Bischolberger after Früken Julie by August Strindberg, is unremittingly bleak.  In fact, if it lasted much longer than its 75 minutes I could well imagine audience members cutting their throats long before the title character.  That said, it’s pretty compelling stuff.  It’s a tight drama about a young aristocratic woman kicking against the constraints of her privileged life aided and abetted by her father’s rather spineless valet Jean; a suitable occupation as he is one of nature’s lackeys.  The only likeable character is Jean’s young fiancée Kristin, a cook in the household.  Buried in this simple melodramatic plot of lust, betrayal and suicide are all kinds of ideas about heredity, social class and behaviour.  Broadly speaking the message is “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” and woe betide you if your plebeian mother married above herself.

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