Romeo and Juliet

Charles Gounod

Metropolitan Opera; Lincoln Center

December 8, 2007

Reviewing a Metropolitan Opera production is a challenge insofar as there is no such thing as a bad one.  True, there are super stars and lesser singers, but even the lesser singers are great and can be heard throughout the cavernous, though acoustically sound, grand hall which is the Metropolitan opera theatre in Lincoln Center.

Last Saturday’s production of Romeo and Juliet, music by Charles Gounod, was as moving as Shakespeare’s enduring classic should be.  Grand love counterpointed with grand hatred;  magnificent gestures and hot blooded murder, all leading to grand double suicide which echoes through the annals of time along with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet in which ill-fated lovers ascend together to the heavens, too pure for life on this mortal coil.

There are just so many magnificent and powerful voices to go around, so after all the world’s opera companies and all the Met soloists who are doing other operas are accounted for, there is a certain fall off among the supporting roles.

But both Joseph Kaiser as Romeo and Anna Netrebko as Juliette are up to the challenge and, in voice and chemistry, bring home the roles. I especially favored Anne Netrebko

The Met’s subtitling system is subtle and tasteful so you can read your personal little screen without disturbing your seatmate.  These unobtrusive monitors minimize the dialog and give you just what you need to follow the story line.

When this great tragedy unfolds with such opulent costumes and imposing sets, it touches a place which mere words cannot.  That is the grandeur of opera.

In the first scene after intermission the lovers’ bed floats 15’ above the stage and the two are making sweet romantic love.  A nice touch in set design. The intensity and brevity of their love brings to mind the delicate mayfly which lives but a day in its mating intensity. 

When they sing to each other with their final breaths “’tis sweet, o infinite supreme joy to die with you,” we understand.  Their love is too pure to find a home on this flawed mortal coil.

The orchestra was conducted by Placido Domingo, who had just sung the role of Oreste (Iphigenie en Tauride) that very afternoon. 

(We will attend again this season and will review the highly touted Natalie Dessay’s performance in Lucia di Lammermoor on March 8.)