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Long Day's Journey into Night


No music is heard except for the Chopin waltz played by Mary Tyrone, a portrait of O'Neill's own mother, at the end of the play. Lost in a morphine-induced fog, she comes downstairs and pauses to play the piano. The last tragic moments of the action are made wrenchingly pathetic as she attempts with arthritic fingers to play a Chopin waltz that breaks into fragments as she touches it. She gives up, and her men are forced to listen helplessly while the drug summons to the present her life as a girl in a convent:

I play so badly now. I'm all out of practice. Sister Theresa will give me a dreadful scolding. She'll tell me it isn't fair to my father when he spends so much money for extra lessons. She's quite right, it isn't fair, when he's so good and generous, and so proud of me. I'll practice every day from now on. But something horrible has happened to my hands. The fingers have gotten so stiff .

The waltz should be one of the easier ones, perhaps the opening bars of opus 34, no. 2 or opus 64, no. 2.

(Suddenly all five bulbs of the chandelier in the front parlor are turned on from a wall switch, and a moment later [Mary] starts playing the piano in there the opening of one of Chopin's simpler waltzes, done with a forgetful, stiff-fingered groping, as if an awkward schoolgirl were practicing it for the first time.) [III, 823]

Valse brillante - Frederic Chopin, from opus 34 no. 2, published 1847

Valse - Frederic Chopin, from opus 64 no. 2, published 1847


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