Juliette’s Musical Transformation: Act II

Act II begins with Romeo’s aria “Ah, leve-toi soleil!” as he is wandering in the night dreaming of his new love, Juliette. He ends up near Juliette’s balcony and overhears her lamenting about the misfortune of their love. The rest of the act is a large scene and duet for Romeo and Juliette in two parts. The first section (No. 8) is a recitative or conversation between Romeo and Juliette. They are interrupted by some Capulet men and the Nurse, but they reunite on the balcony and continue their time together in a duet (No. 9). 

Throughout the act, Juliette is trying to be smart about their forbidden relationship, but Romeo doesn’t consider the possible consequences. Juliette is making a plan and making sure that Romeo is true to her. Worried about being caught, she is constantly telling him to go, but Romeo always finds a way to stay a bit longer. Although Juliette is headstrong and intelligent, something about Romeo’s persistence and sweetness always pulls her back in. 

Alternation between speech-like & lyrical

Juliette’s conflict is represented musically in many places. There is alternation between melodic lines with active orchestral accompaniment (accompanied recitative) and more declamatory statements with repeated pitches paired with a minimal orchestral accompaniment (dry recitative). This alternation of both vocal and orchestral style demonstrates Juliette’s conflicting feelings. When the music is more declamatory and speech-like, Juliette is telling Romeo what she wants from him, or what the plan is (a more practical side of Juliette). When the music is more lyrical and tuneful, Juliette is enchanted by her love for Romeo (swept away by the romance). 

Example 1 (No. 8): Declamatory: Juliette requesting that Romeo tells her he honestly loves her. Lyrical: “And my honor trusts you, o my Lord as you can trust me!” Declamatory: “Don’t accuse me of being wanton”

Example 2 (No. 9): Declamatory – “If you want me as your wife…” Lyrical: “Oh my lord… I give you my whole life” 

Heightened chromaticism and complexity 

No. 8: Ah! You know that the night hides my face from you! – Juliette is playful and flirtatious, she’s literally blushing. Her music here is quite melodic and tuneful, but there is a chromatic and angular quality that gives it more depth and color. I can sense the young and playful Juliette, but something has changed within her. She states what she wants in a loving tone, but very clearly and seriously. The increased complexity in the music shows that her thoughts and feelings are deeper and more complex compared to the simplicity and lightness of Act I. 

No. 9

Juliette tells him to go and to speak softer because someone might hear. Romeo refuses and begs her to stay “Ah! ne fuis pas encore!” Here we see a similar moment to the first act duet “Ange adorable”.  Romeo sings eight measures, and Juliette responds with eight measures of almost the exact same eight measures but different text. Again, Juliette is somewhat surprised by Romeo’s eagerness and repeats his melody showing how she is swept up in the romance and follows Romeo’s every move. 

Juliette says “Adieu” (notes B – C) and tries to bid him farewell, but he wraps her back in again by responding “Adieu” (C – D). She responds, yet again “Adieu” (D – D#). All of a sudden both are singing in octaves on notes D# – E. Romeo literally meets her where she is at (musically – matching pitch, literally – at her balcony, figuratively – her heart) and envelops her with his love. The couple sings again in harmonic and sensual tertian harmonies: “This farewell, so sweet… and so sad.” 

Juliette again begs Romeo to leave, but “not too far..” This time, it isn’t Romeo that ropes her back in, but she loses herself in a metaphor “Comme un oiseau captif/Like a captive bird…” Her music here is again very tuneful and melodic, but there is a heightened chromaticism that intensifies as she continues. 

Finally, she must go and she bids Romeo farewell again. The “Adieu” back and forth happens once more, and they end up singing “This farewell, so sweet…” again in harmonic thirds. These harmonic thirds represent the two lovers being bound together by love. 

In conclusion, in Act II, Juliette’s music becomes much more complex, chromatic, angular and expressive. The alternation of lyrical and speech-like style demonstrates her inner conflict. She wants to be with Romeo, but is worried about what could happen if they are found out. She is torn between love and fear.

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