Romeo And Juliet Fantasy Overture Love Theme

Album: Tchaikovsky: Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet (1870)
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Songfacts®:

  • The idea of writing a piece based on Shakespeare's timeless drama of forbidden and youthful love was originally suggested to Tchaikovsky by self-appointed father figure to Russian composers, Mily Balakirev. The 29-year-old composer had had some modest success, but was struggling with writing an opera entitled Undine, which he would eventually destroy. Balakirev urged Tchaikovsky to use Shakespeare's tragic lovers for inspiration, even going so far as to send him musical ideas, including the first four bars of music as he would have written them himself. Tchaikovsky was inspired by the musical concept and finished the piece in just six weeks.
  • The first performance on March 16, 1870 was a flop, which wasn't helped by a much reported court case surrounding the conductor Nikolai Rubinstein, and a female student that had gone against the eminent musician the previous day. There was a noisy demonstration when Rubenstein appeared on the concert platform in his favor, and the disruption proved much more interesting to the audience than the new overture. Tchaikovsky said of the premiere: "After the concert we dined... No one said a single word to me about the overture the whole evening. And yet I yearned so for appreciation and kindness."
  • After the failure of the 1870 premiere, Balakiev convinced Tchaikovsky to rework the piece and the second version was premiered in St. Petersburg on February 17, 1872. In 1880, Tchaikovsky rewrote the ending and gave the piece the sub-title "Overture-Fantasia". This third and final version is the one that is now in the repertoire.
  • The Overture's yearning love theme signifies the couple first meeting and the scene at Juliet's balcony. When Tchaikovsky showed him the theme, Balakirev wrote: "I very much want to hug you for it."
  • The love theme is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest melodies ever written. It has been used as the quintessential "love at first sight" music in numerous movies including the 1992 comedy Wayne's World. The tune was even played during the first movie with sound, 1927's The Jazz Singer, but in this instance, rather than being used to soundtrack a falling in love scene the theme is strangely used during scenes of familial discord.
  • The haunting melody of Lou Christie's steamy 1966 hit "Rhapsody In The Rain" was inspired by this work.
  • The main theme of the overture was used as the theme song for the kissing music in The Sims video game.

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