The opera, directed by Michael Kahn and conducted by Marco Zambelli, is a lush and romantic take on William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy presented in five acts. A perfect blend of beautiful sets, costumes and lighting, along with the vocal prowess from the production’s leads made for a lovely night at the opera.
Caught between their feuding families, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet’s love blossoms into a force that transcends even death.
Russian soprano Lyubov Petrova plays the part of Juliet, effortlessly owning the impressive slides and pushes of Gounod’s score. Romeo is portrayed by New York tenor Charles Castronovo, whose sweet tone is well-matched for the character’s emotional journey. Castronovo and Petrova’s voices entwine beautifully in their duets, which is intensified by their sparking chemistry.
Lighting and set design created a beautiful backdrop for the story to unfold. The prologue is sung by the chorus, clad in black robes and holding candles, at a funeral service for the young couple. The stage was dark but sufficiently bright enough for the audience to see the chorus. It was expertly juxtaposed by the bright, joyful masked ball at the Capulets’ palace where the lovers meet in Act 1. The changing light throughout the production made every scene exactly what it meant to convey.
Castronovo showed his vocal adeptness in conveying the joyfulness of love in the famous garden scene in Act 2. His performance improved when on stage with Petrova due to their chemistry. That chemistry is most palpable in the opening of Act 4, Juliet’s room at dawn.
The supporting roles of Romeo’s ill-fated friend Mercutio, played by Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins, and loyal pageboy Stephano, played by Romanian Mezzo-Soprano Roxana Constantinescu, stand out in Act 3 during the grand confrontation between the Capulets and the Montagues.
Petrova shines in her aria in Act 4 where she decides to drink the draught prepared by Frere Laurent, played wonderfully by English bass Robert Lloyd, to make her seem dead. The fear, courage and emotion of the decision upon the character is shown masterfully hrough Petrova’s singing. She gives no indication of hitting marks or notes, but plays it with enviable finesse.
The last highlight of the opera is the finale – the heart-wrenching death of both of the lovers.
The tomb of the Capulets feels cavernous and dark, a testament to the impeccable set and lighting design. After sharing one last painful kiss, the lovers sing “may God forgive us” in unison as their bodies grow still and the lights fade to black – a chilling ending that brought the entire audience to their feet as the curtain closed.
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