The Metropolitan Opera – Roméo et Juliette

Roméo et Juliette – Opera in five acts to a libretto by Jules Barbier & Michel Carré based on the play by Shakespeare [Sung in French with Met titles in English by Cori Ellison]

Roméo – Piotr Beczala
Juliette – Hei-Kyung Hong
Frère Laurent – James Morris
Stéphano – Julie Boulianne
Mercutio – Lucas Meachem
Benvolio – Brian Frutiger
Gertrude – Wendy White
Capulet – Dwayne Croft
Tybalt – Sean Panikkar
Paris – Jeff Mattsey
Grégorio – David Won
Duke of Verona – Jordan Bisch

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Plácido Domingo

Guy Joosten – Production
Johannes Leiacker – Set Designer
Jorge Jara – Costume Designer
David Cunningham – Lighting Designer
Seán Curran – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 10 March, 2011
Venue: The Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

Piotr Beczala as Roméo & Hei-Kyung Hong as Juliette (Roméo et Juliette). Photograph: Marty Sohl / Metropolitan OperaThis performance of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” was the third in the Metropolitan Opera’s second revival of its 2005 Joosten/Leiacker astronomically-themed production laden with “star-cross’d” imagery, including an astrolabe, a giant orrery suspended over the stage, and a love-scene played out on a bed hovering in mid-air against a cosmic backdrop of the starry night sky. Much of the action (including the fight scenes) takes place on a circular platform in the center of the stage, which rises and falls as it rotates. These elements, along with some brief glitches in the lighting system, proved distracting at times, but not enough to take away from the overall positive effect of the performance.

The evening was most notable for an especially strong performance by Hei-Kyung Hong as Juliette. Hong stepped in as an eleventh-hour replacement when, just before first night, Angela Gheorghiu, citing an unspecified illness, withdrew from the entire run. Hong, a Met veteran who made her 1984 debut as Servilia in “La clemenza di Tito” and who has sung twenty-four different roles with the Met, sang her first Juliette here in 1996. Aged 51 Hong is not exactly Shakespeare’s fourteen-year-old heroine, but her delicate and beautiful looks, combined with her fine vocal and dramatic skills enabled her to create a very convincing illusion of youth. Her lyric soprano is agile and graceful, and the subtly-detailed style of her singing poignantly conveyed Juliette’s passion and vulnerability. She was enchanting in Juliette’s first entrance, characterful in her Act One waltz-song, and at her most moving in the Act Five tomb-scene.

Hong’s Juliette was well-matched with Piotr Beczala’s appropriately youthful and ardent Romeo. Beczala’s lyric tenor is tender, vibrant and well-focused, and their voices blended seamlessly in all four of Gounod’s resplendent love duets, his Act Two aria ‘Ah! Lève-toi, soleil!’ (Ah! Rise fair sun!) was perfectly shaped, full-toned and charmingly rendered. Among the supporting cast, two other Met veterans stood out. James Morris’s wooly, stentorian bass was ideally suited to the short but pivotal role of Frère Laurent, in which he gave a totally believable performance, and Dwayne Croft made an elegant and incisive Capulet. Lucas Meachem brought a strong voice and strapping physique to Mercutio but unfortunately failed to convey the requisite bravado. His challenge-and-duel scene was completely lacking in conviction. In the trouser role of Stéphano, Julie Boulianne was more successful, perky and delightfully insouciant.

Plácido Domingo (who sang Romeo in the 1974-75 Met season, and first conducted the opera there in 1986) elicited a graceful account of Gounod’s elegant and melodious score, and the Chorus sang with great fervor and clarity of diction. A very enjoyable night at the opera.

A video of The Met’s “Roméo et Juliette”:

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