A Village Romeo and Juliet is an opera by Frederick Delius, the fourth of six operas. The composer himself, with his wife Jelka, wrote the English-language libretto based on the short story Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe by the Swiss author Gottfried Keller. The first performance was at the Komische Oper Berlin on 21 February 1907, as Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe. Thomas Beecham conducted the British premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London on 22 February 1910. The US premiere was on 26 April 1972 in Washington, D.C.
While the opera has rarely been staged, the orchestral interlude between Scenes 5 and 6, "The Walk to the Paradise Garden", is heard separately in concerts and has been recorded many times.
The opera is in six scenes.
At the beginning of the opera, Sali, son of the farmer Manz, and Vrenchen (Vreli), daughter of the farmer Marti, are children. They are playing together one September morning on a plot of land. The Dark Fiddler is the rightful owner of this disputed land, but because he is illegitimate and thus without legal rights, he cannot exert control over the land. He appears to the children and warns them that the land must not be tilled. Manz and Marti dispute ownership of the land, and put a stop to the relationship between their respective children.
Six years later, at Marti's now run-down house, Sali and Vrenchen plan a meeting. Since their childhood, a lawsuit about the land has ruined both Manz and Marti. Sali persuades Vrenchen to meet him on the plot. The Dark Fiddler re-appears once more and invites them to join him. He also tells them that, regardless, they will meet again. Marti sees the two lovers and takes Vreli away. In trying to stop Marti, Sali injures him severely. As a result, Marti loses his reason and must be confined in an asylum. Sali returns and sees Vreli at her house, which is to be sold. The two declare their love and decide to leave together.
At a local fair, Sali and Vreli buy rings. Sali mentions an inn, the Paradise Garden, where they can dance all night, and they go there. The Dark Fiddler and some vagrants are drinking there. He greets the lovers, and suggests they join him to share a vagabond life in the mountains. Instead, Sali and Vreli decide that they cannot live such an existence, and they resolve to die together, uncompromising in their love for each other. They leave the inn and find a hay barge, which they release from the dock to begin to float down the river. As the Dark Fiddler observes them, Sali removes the plug from the bottom of the boat, and Sali and Vreli sink with the boat.