By Lynne Gray, PhD
Please note this can be seen at www.metopera.org
Thursday, July 23
Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette ~ 2Hrs 51Mins
Starring Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Nathan Gunn, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by Plácido Domingo. From December 15, 2007.
Yet another evening of opera this week that is based on Shakespeare – and, as is usually the case these days, we have the second go around for this particular opera – in a production which boasts gorgeously opulent sets and costumes. Netrebko not withstanding, however, I still prefer the 2017 Damrau/Grigolo casting that we saw in April, mostly because in these particular roles I prefer the ardent and enthusiastic Grigolo to the far stiffer, matinee idol Alagna, and the ebullient Damrau’s incredibly light and agile coloratura to Netrebko’s darker, though undeniably beautiful tone. In 2007, Netrebko was certainly young enough to play Juliette, but even then her voice was heavier and darker in colour than is typically heard in the role of thirteen year old Juliette, although it was definitely sufficiently agile to negotiate the part’s extremely difficult ornamentation.
Every bit as heartbreaking as the Shakespearean original, this production of Gounod’s romantic opera features all of the most famous moments of the play – dressed up in wonderful, unforgettable melodies. Netrebko and Alagna, the star-crossed lovers at the center of the story are given no fewer than four beautiful duets plus several memorable arias. Romeo’s swashbuckling friend Mercutio – sung by animated baritone Nathan Gunn – complements his show stopping Queen Mab song, “Mab, la reine des mensonges,” (Mab, the queen of lies,/Preside in dreams./Lighter than the wind) with athletic physicality, and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (at that time, a young Juilliard graduate, making her company debut with remarkable aplomb) sings Stéphano with great assurance, using her lovely, amber-colored lower register and yet able to move to an impressive, soprano like top. It is really hard to make a splash in a trouser role on a night when Netrebko is singing, but Ms. Leonard certainly did, and Marc Heller, as Tybalt, delivered his cameo aria with elegance, gusto and appropriate hatred. Conductor Plácido Domingo is always an audience draw – even though the podium is not where his strongest talents lie.
I’m sure I don’t need to review this particular story for you, so curl up on the couch with your Kleenex box and surround yourself with Gounod’s glorious music. This opera is a beautiful way to re-acquaint yourself with Juliette’s youthful enthusiasm, Roméo’s hot-headed ardor, Tybalt’s irrational hatred for the Montagues, Mercutio’s noble sacrifice, the secret marriage in Frère Laurent’s cell, the missed messages and the final tragedy that brings about a sad peace after the ardently sung ending.
Things to particularly watch for: Juliet’s vivacious entrance aria that is a waltz so irresistible, almost anyone would be willing to scale a balcony to hear it again, “Ah!/Je veux vivre/Dans ce rêve qui m’ enivre;” (Ah!
I want to live/In this dream that intoxicates me); Roméo’s first aria of love for Juliette, “Ah! lève-toi, soleil! fais pâlir les étoiles,” (Ah! get up, sun! make the stars pale..); the young lovers’ first pledges of love to each other, “Ô nuit divine! je t’implore, laissez mon cœur à ce rêve enchanté!” (O divine night! I implore you, leave my heart to this enchanted dream!); Juliette’s aria as she summons the courage to drink the sleeping potion, “Amour, ranime mon courage,/Et de mon cœur chasse l’effroi!” (Love, revive my courage,/And from my heart chase fright!); and, of course the lovers’ final duet as they die holding on to each other, “Salut! tombeau sombre et silencieux!” (I greet you! dark and silent tomb!).
Truly a delight for both your eyes and your ears, you will want to watch all five acts from the beautiful masked ball in the Capulets’ palace, to the lover’s first duet in the Capulets’ garden where they exchange their vows of love, to the scene in Frère Laurent’s cell, to the terrible duels, first between Tybalt and Mercutio, who falls dead, and then between Roméo, determined to avenge his comrade, and Tybalt which sets the final tragedy in motion. Enjoy!
1. Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna as the title characters in Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” at the Met, 2007. Photo Credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.
2. The Capulets’ Ball in the Met’s “Roméo et Juliette.” Photo Credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.
3. Roberto Alagna and Anna Netrebko in the Met’s “Roméo et Juliette.” Photo Credit…Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.
4. Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the final scene from Act V of the Met’s “Roméo et Juliette.” Photo Credit: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.