Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo "Sizzle" as the Star-Crossed Lovers in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette

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10 April 2017
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Roméo et Juliette
Photo: Courtesy of Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
"Great Performances at the Met: Roméo et Juliette"
Friday, April 14 at 9 PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)

              The Met's new production by director Bartlett Sher also features Virginie Verrez as Stéphano, Elliot Madore as Mercutio, and Mikhail Petrenko as Frère Laurent. Gianandrea Noseda conducts the sumptuous score.

              The opera premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. Perhaps the most enduringly successful of the many operatic settings of the world's consummate love story, Roméo et Juliette is a prime example of French Romanticism, a tradition that values subtlety, sensuality, and graceful vocal delivery over showy effects. In the opera there is a slight shift of focus away from the word games of the original play and a greater focus on the two lovers, who are given four irresistible duets, including a brief final reunion in the tomb scene that does not appear in the play.      

 

              Charles Gounod (1818-1893) showed early promise as a musician and achieved commercial success with his opera Faust in 1859. Among his most famous works is a setting of the "Ave Maria" based on a piece by J. S. Bach. Jules Barbier (1825-1901) and Michel Carré (1821-1872) were the leading librettists of their time in France, providing the text for many other operas, including Faust for Gounod, Mignon (also from Goethe) and Hamlet for Ambroise Thomas, and Les Contes d'Hoffmann for Jacques Offenbach.

              In Shakespeare's lifetime, Italy was a land of many small city-states in constant warfare with one another, but this same country was also the cradle of the Renaissance, with its astounding explosion of art and science. The image invoked by the story's setting in the ancient city of Verona, then, is a beautiful but dangerous world where poetry or violence might erupt at any moment. The Met's new production moves the action to the 18th century.
            
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