Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” On “Great Performances at the Met” Friday, April 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS
Hailed by The New York Times for singing “with white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism,” Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo star as the tragic lovers in Shakespeare’s classic story. Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette airs on Great Performances at the Met Friday, April 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check 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.
Critics outdid themselves for superlatives. “Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo sizzle,” raved The New York Times, noting the “… Nuanced, richly textured conducting (from) the always impressive Gianandrea Noseda.”
The Financial Times found that “Grigolo exuded extraordinary passion, vocally and physically… Damrau traced the heroine’s emotional state exquisitely from girlish giddiness to tragic sacrifice.”
“Bartlett Sher’s brilliant and inspired new production… is a revelation…,” declared The Huffington Post. “The Met could not ask for a better pair of lovers than Damrau and Grigolo… Unbridled passion… A stirring operatic event.”
Soprano Ailyn Pérez hosts the broadcast.
Production: Bartlett Sher. Set Designer: Michael Yeargan. Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber. Lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton. Choreographer: Chase Brock.
Roméo et Juliette was originally seen live in movie theaters on January 21 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The Live in HD series has reached a record-breaking 22 million viewers since its inception in 2006.
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.