Romeo et Juliette

photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
Everyone knows the storyline of Romeo et Juliette but the weight of its tragedy still clings to my shoulders even after I left my seat at the Metropolitan Theater. This after all is one of Shakespeare's enduring love tragedies - ultimately leading to the phrase "Shakespearean tragedy" for anything with, well, a tragic ending (remember English literature in high school?). Charles Gounod's version of Romeo et Juliette, sung in French from the libretto of Jules Barbier and Michel Carre, is one of the offerings for the 2007-2008 season at the Met.

The star-crossed lovers in tonight's performance is a fantastic duo: soprano Anna Netrebko (Juliette) and tenor Marcello Giordani (Romeo). Giordani, having just performed last night for Lucia di Lammermoor, had to substitute for Joseph Kaiser who called-in sick. I must say that Giordani was a worthy, if not a better, replacement for a debuting Kaiser. His Romeo seethed with a love that overpowers his frustration at the feud between his family (the Montagues) and that of Juliette's (the Capulets). Netrebko is sensational and her vocal prowess is already felt even in Act I with "Je veux vivre", an aria that I so love. What I found truly unforgettable was the visually stunning Act IV during Romeo and Juliette's wedding night scene with that floating bed covered in white satin sheets and the background sprinkled with what seem like a thousand stars - kudos to the lighting and set designers!!! The sensual duet of Netrebko and Giordani at that scene was so palpable and so powerful that I could see wives holding on closer to their husbands.

If there was another reason why tonight's performance was a must-see for me, it has got to be tenor Placido Domingo. This contemporary of the late Luciano Pavarotti was not onstage but rather, in front of it, in front of the pit of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra to conduct and swing his baton. And swing he did, I thought he was almost dancing! Domingo obviously has a talent that goes beyond his impenetrable voice box - his deft in merging music with Shakespeare's play was pleasant to both my ear canals. After 3 hours and 5 Acts, all I could say is...bravo!


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