la Scala, for Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette” . I’m not really used to the style of French opera
( here exemplified as Drame lyrique which avoids blatantly theatrical or grandiose effects) but I can’t resist a good love story and apparently nor can a lot of other people.Shakespeare was the major leaguer in this tragic tale closely followed, well, by more or less everybody! Bellini wrote one, Berlioz too, not to mention Riccardo Cocciante. I’ve seen the play in the theatre directed by Zeffirelli, on film by Zeffirelli and disguised as “West Side Story” (Bernstein), speeded up by Baz Lurman, and loads more. The very best comment I heard was waiting in a queue with some teenagers who were discussing how it might end for Leo (Di Caprio, Romeo in Lurman’s film)! Ignorance is bliss as we say, or let’s face it, at least a surprise! I also have a happy memory of prancing out of a cinema in Greece after seeing WSS feeling terribly excited -arm -in -arm with friends almost dancing down the street, to the disapproval of the Greeks,and singing “Maria” at the top of our voices! I hate nostalgia so now I’ll get back to Gounod whose opera was first performed in Paris 1867. This particular production came from the New York Met.
It’s interesting because it eliminates the final “reconciliation ” theme which we find in Shakespeare. Everyone has their own opinion about this. Do you want to leave the theatre dry-eyed because the youngsters’ deaths have sealed a kind of pact and brought some kind of peace to Verona? or would you prefer to sob your way to the train moved by their tragic destiny? Then again, did they get to have a last kiss? In Shakespeare no, Gounod yes. And while we’re at it, what is it about? A macho culture with an obedient Juliet letting the Fra sort out her difficulties? A very modern idea about the expendibility of youth by the older generations? Hmmm.
Costumes describing a very Venetian-looking Italian settecento, scenery effective, an athletic Romeo very credibly climbing up to the balcony. And his singing too was mostly good, a little too audience -oriented at times maybe. Juliet’s role was taken over at the last minute and I found her voice a little modest but it was a last -minute solution. Among my music -loving and very expert friends and acquaintances there was no consensus.