Culture Magazine

Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Roles to Be Heard and Seen

By Galegirl
Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, roles to be heard and seen

The highly touted Met R&J with Netrebko and Alagna, 2007

Opera Company of PhiladelphiaRomeo and Juliet

Though I’m disinclined to read others’ reviews first, by contrast, I am very much inclined to do a little research before any opera I see. Of course I know Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet well–I was a high school English teacher for years–but I have never seen the opera and that, as they say, is another ball of wax.  

I do have one bias going into this production and that is it’s difficult for me to embrace 40-something actors or singers playing Romeo or Juliet. They are, as Shakespeare wrote them, supposed to be young teens. Why else would these two fall in love so quickly and rush headlong into life-and-death decisions without thinking them through?  

Do you remember what it was like to be fifteen and totally head over heels for someone? It’s almost painful to have your heart so full of love for someone. All your emotions are amplified as a result of this terrible new burden of love that has overwhelmed all your senses.  So, I already know I will need to see that level of passion between two actors who aren’t so far removed from teenagehood to take this production seriously even if they aren’t teenagers. I do realize that few teenagers are neither vocally equipped nor sufficiently developed for the demands of singing either of these roles but they have to project youthful energies to be believable.  

As regards Gounod‘s opera, one of the prevailing views is that Romeo and Juliet (and every other Gounod opera) are thin shadows compared to his Faust. I prefer to review the work I’m seeing rather than compare it to his masterwork. And according to Bachtrack, there are nearly as many productions of R&J (27) as Faust (29) worldwide, so perhaps it is improving in critical and popular favor–most likely because of strong, highly visible productions by major houses.  

Gounod’s R&J is a five-act grand opera which follows Shakespeare’s tragedy very closely (apart from adding a character Stephano in the fight scene) in construction as well as in dialogue.  

Since the highlights of the score are the four love duets between the star-crossed lovers–an unprecedented number of tenor-soprano duets in one opera–the burden of the show’s success rests on those singing the title roles.  

Some of the other portions of the opera I have high expectations for include Romeo’s cavatina ”Ah! leve-toi, soleil,” Mercutio’s Queen Mab ballade,  the Act III confrontation between the Montagues and the Capulets, and Juliet’s famous waltz “Ah! Je veux vivre dans ce rêve,” which was coincidentally OperaPulse’s Aria of the Week and Thursday night throwdown between Angela Gheorghiu and  Montserrat Caballe (yes, an unusual role for her).  

I really enjoy this version of “Ah! Je veux vivre dans ce rêve”  by Diana Damrau–it encapsulates Juliet’s youthful exuberance and imagination. Damrau may not be a teenager (because what teen can sing lyric coloratura?), but she certainly is fresh and dewy–believable as Juliet (and in beautiful voice). What do you think? Is Damrau a believable Juliet and a soaring Juliet–musically speaking?  

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • DVD: Gnomeo & Juliet

    DVD: Gnomeo Juliet

    Photo: Amazon.caStarring James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine and Ozzy Osbourne. Directed by Kelly Asbury. 84 minutes. GWhy garden gnomes? Seriously. Why? D... Read more

    By  Cinefilles
  • A New Name for Romeo

    Name Romeo

    Romeo and Juliet by Sir Frank DickseeI’ve always loved the name “Elio”. It comes from the Greek Helios, meaning “sun”. For an Italian name, it’s comparatively... Read more

    By  Heddigoodrich
  • Kansas City Chiefs Decide To Keep Romeo Crennel as Head Coach in 2012: Why It's...

    Kansas City Chiefs Decide Keep Romeo Crennel Head Coach 2012: It's Right Choice

    Photo: Getty Images - Troy Ballard The Kansas City Chiefs promoted defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to interim-head coach after the firing of Todd Haley,... Read more

    By  Beardandstache
  • Romeo Has Nothing on Me

    Romeo Nothing

    Like most married men, Valentines Day’s arrival every year in a pain in the arse. Surely we do enough to show our love to our wives/girlfriends (and... Read more

    By  Stuartnoel
  • Romance February Guest Review: Romeo + Juliet

    Romance February Guest Review: Romeo Juliet

    It’s Valentines Day and what better way to celebrate the Day of Love than by watching one of the greatest and most well-known romance stories of all time,... Read more

    By  Impsndcnma
  • the Romeo & Juliet Masquerade Ball

    Romeo Juliet Masquerade Ball

    In 2011, I got myself all gussied up to attend the Opening Night Gala of New York City Center. This year, and this past Thursday evening, I prepped in a... Read more

    By  Danielleabroad
  • 2011 Alfa Romeo C4 Concept

    2011 Alfa Romeo Concept

    Alfa Romeo 4C Idea made its introduction at the 81st Geneva Worldwide Motor Show. This lightweight "supercar" which symbolizes the true substance of a activitie... Read more

    By  Jojobegu