Julius Juzeliūnas

The Game

Year of composition: 1968
Duration: 90′
Instrumentation: S-Mez-2T-Bar-2B-satb-3333-4331-3perc-pf-str
Language: Lithuanian

Opera in 2 acts
Libretto by Julius Juzeliūnas after Friedrich Dürrenmatt's short story "Die Panne"

CD The Game. - Vilnius: Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre, LMIPC CD 050, 2009

The main character in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s novella The Breakdown (Die Panne) is Alfredo Traps, a travelling salesman, who has achieved a substantial career. As his sumptuous Studebaker breaks down on the road, he is forced to look for a place to stay overnight in a small provincial town. Traps agrees to join in a game that is proposed by his old host a retired judge: together with his aging friends, former court officials, theay are in a habit of reenacting various trials of the past and present over their suppers. Traps is offered the role of a defendant and is cross-examined over the huge meals. Finally, he is made to admit the criminal character of his actions and demands to be sentenced to death. Unexpectedly to everyone involved, Traps carries this mock sentence into execution.

For his opera Juzeliūnas selected fragments from Dürrenmatt’s original text and wrote a libretto based on this material by himself. The action of the novella that extends through the evening and late into the night was divided into two parts of almost equal duration (around 40 minutes each). The musical language of this opera is based on a selection of the so-called ‘motivic cells’ that Juzeliūnas employed in many of his works at the time. He grouped these ‘cells’ together to form three twelve-tone rows. Each of these series serve to create individual ‘motivic fields’ that characterise the leading roles of the opera - that is, Traps, the lawyers, and madam Gygax.

After Julius Juzeliūnas had finished the score of The Game by the end of 1968, the artistic board of the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius admitted this new work as the proposal for production in 1970. Yet then it was not destined to see the light of the stage. Shortly after the first rehearsals where the performers started learning their music parts, some intransigent discrepancies occurred between the composer and the performers. The composer rejected any suggestions to blue-pencil the soloists’ parts and to correct passages where stresses in words did not correspond to those in the music. Thus the theatre’s management did not put Juzeliūnas’s opera on stage. Only almost forty years after the opera was composed and when the 90th anniversary of Juzeliūnas’s birth was approaching, the Lithuanian Composers’ Union came up with an idea to organise the first public performance of The Game in concert and to introduce this unknown opera, written by the classic of Lithuanian modernism, to the audience.

Algirdas Ambrazas