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A Night at the Opera: Gounod's 'Romeo et Juliette'

Kristina PinoComment
Image ©Michal Daniel - http://www.proofsheet.com/
For being associated with such distinguished works such as Faust, Romeo et Juliette and the Ave Maria, Gounod's name isn't one I hear thrown around as often as I'd think. Part of the reason why is because apparently most of his work has disappeared completely and is lost in history, which makes me a bit sad to know.

Fortunately for us, what remains is all solid, beautiful work that is revived often enough for everyone to admire. Over the weekend, I went over to the Adrienne Arsht Center to see Romeo et Juliette and was surprised by everything that was incorporated into the production. The scenery was beautiful and well complemented by various light effects such that have been used for Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The casting was perfect and the original play was adapted to give the audience a unique performance based more on the actual relationship between Romeo and Juliette while cutting out a lot of the extra dialogue for the drama that surrounded them. This isn't to say that their family feud wasn't the root of their problems, but the focus was not on that as much as the relationship on a deeper level.

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I was happy to see the return of Sébastien Guèze, who I'd seen perform during last season's Cyrano as this season's Romeo. He has a beautiful, clear voice that really meshed well with the strong, almost aggressive tone that Maria Alejandres brought to the role of Juliette. Overall they both have fantastic range, which is necessary when playing the role of such young and impulsive characters.

As for the supporting cast, I don't think there could have been a better Mercutio than Jonathan G Michie or a more appropriate Nurse Gertrude than Cindey Sadler. Everyone performed brilliantly, but these two stood out among the rest along with Courtney McKeown  whose wonderful, pleasant voice surprised everyone as the funny Stéphano, a page to the Montagues. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I saw this young boy-ish looking character step in and start poking at the presumed Capulet household with jokes and mild insults, but it had everyone suppressing giggles, myself included.

As far as adaptations go, this is the best I've ever seen of Romeo and Juliet in terms of turning an utter tragedy into something that doesn't have you feeling doom from the start. The tones are overall light throughout the opera and at the very end, we don't have people bursting into the tomb to find Romeo and Juliette cold and dead, then declaring they'd end their feud. It kept things personal throughout and that was enough. It's still tragic at the end, but I like the changes that were made and feel they were for the better. The performances kept the audience in the present rather than dreading the last act.

Unfortunately, and as always, pictures aren't allowed at the opera so I borrowed the main propaganda image (used with permission of the photographer) found on the FGO website and other ticket retail outlets. The image is copyright Michal Daniel and you should check out his site to see all the great pictures he's taken in the theater!