“Roméo et Juliette” by Gounod, or the world’s best known, iconic, and doomed young love…

MET Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Thursday March 7th, 2024.

Welcome back friends, and welcome once again, to the wonderful MET Opera.

Yay!

And welcome to a fabulous, romantic, highly tragic, yet, at times, optimistic, beautiful, light and mostly dark, 18th century (Sher) production, of classic 19th century, Romantic French opera, a dramatic and gorgeous, iconic “doomed love” work, based on an illustrious play, by the fearless, the great, and powerful William Shakespeare (1564-1616), initially set in the late 16th century (1597), including some of the most beautiful, youthful, poetic and romantic arias, about an ill fated love, which will lead to the death of both star crossed lovers, the charming, young, almost teenager/young adults “love birds”, who sing throughout the opera, incredibly passionately, about their love for one another.

Wow.

Welcome to Charles Gounod (1818-1893), and his 1867, and incredibly dramatic, five acts, masterpiece opera: “Roméo et Juliette”.

Yay!

An (1867) opera, “Roméo et Juliette”, poetically adapted by two of the most illustrious French librettists of their time, Jules Barbier (1825-1901), and Michel Carré (1821-1872), regular collaborators of Gounod’s as librettists, including on Gounod’s previous tragic opera (1859) “Faust”, as well as librettists for others, including illustrious composer extraordinaire, Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), and his later, iconic, fun, yet dark, and terrific, “opera fantastique”, (1881) “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”.

Wow.

And personally, I think that, not only is Gounod’s music in itself, extraordinary, but blended and spun with the words by Barbier and Carré, the work reaches another level of sheer beauty and perfection, and is the real reason, this 1867 opera is so incredible: together they (music and words), create an unparalleled romantic atmosphere, which then, performed with the right artists, orchestra and conductor included, make this iconic opera, “Roméo et Juliette”, totally timeless, fantastic, and breathtaking.

Yay!

How to summarize Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette”‘s plot?

“Roméo et Juliette” depicts in five acts, the tragic consequences of a long standing family conflict in Verona, Italy, between two families: the Capulet (Juliette’s family) and the Montaigu (Roméo’s family).

Wow.

Tragic consequences to this family hatred will lead first, to a catastrophic blood feud, then, despite or perhaps because of the family hatred, to a secret wedding between the two love birds (Roméo and Juliette), who have deeply fallen in love with each other, at first sight, at a masked ball, given early on, in the opera, at the Capulet Palace.

Wow.

And much later, the story will have Juliette take a “magical /witchcraft sleep” potion, to try to find a solution to the dire situation the newly weds find themselves entangled in, and this “magical /witchcraft sleep” potion, is so potent, that she (Juliette), will appear dead for a few hours, leading Roméo, later on, to take as well, this time, an actual death potion, so sad is he, (Roméo) to have apparently “lost” his Juliette, and eventually, concluding the opera with the tragic death of both “star crossed” lovers.

Wow. And oh no.

Specifically, in Act 1, we discover at a masked ball organized in the Capulet Palace, Juliette’s cousin Tybalt, who assures Count Pâris, to whom Juliette (Capulet) has been “promised” as a future bride, that she (Juliette) will enchant him (Tybalt).

Oh boy.

Roméo (Montaigu), with a few friends, including Mercutio, have sneaked into the masked ball incognito, (thanks to theirs face masks), and Roméo tells his friend Mercutio, of strange dream that he has had, which his friend Mercutio dismisses, as the work of the fairy Queen Mab.

Oh boy.

Roméo watches Juliette dance, and instantly, falls in love with her.

Awww.

Juliette explains to her nurse Gertrude, that she has no interest in marriage.

Oh boy. (We shall see about that).

Yet, when Roméo approaches her, they (Roméo and Juliette) both feel, they are meant for each other.

Awww.

Let’s now, listen to a brief recent dress rehearsal excerpt (from this production), of Juliette, singing about her happiness, and how she wants to live in this delightful “dream” before it fades.

And pay especially attention, to Sierra’s amazing technique, trills and all, sung and acted beautifully, especially at the very end of this short excerpt.

Yay!

So charming, elegant, gorgeous and youthful!

Yay!

A few minutes later, Tybalt (from the Capulet family), “happens” unhappily upon the two love birds, and Roméo retreats hastily, from the masked ball with his friends.

Oh boy.

The short Act 2, has Roméo entering the Capulet’s garden, later that same evening, looking for Juliette. Juliette steps out onto her balcony, and Roméo declares his love.

Let’s now, listen to a short excerpt of a recent dress rehearsal (from this production), of one of the famous arias sung by a love stricken Roméo, asking the sun to rise, and sung brilliantly by Bernheim, with great longing, hope and happiness.

Yay!

What gorgeous music and poetic words.

Yay!

The stars (and planets) as one knows, always being a great source of inspiration to evoke beauty, love and happiness of course.

Yay!

Servants interrupt the moment, and when they are finally alone again, Juliette declares her eternal love to Roméo.

Awww.

Act 3, has Roméo visiting a man of cloth, Frère Laurent, to whom he confesses his love for Juliette.

Awww.

Shortly after, Juliette appears with her nurse Gertrude, and hoping that their (Roméo and Juliette)’s love might reconcile their families, Frère Laurent marries them.

Awww.

Outside the Capulet palace, Roméo’s page, Stéphano, sings about about a turtledove (symbolizing of course, Juliette), imprisoned in a nest of vultures, which of course, does anger the Capulet family.

Oh boy.

Mercutio (Roméo’s friend) comes to Stéphano (Roméo’s page) rescue, but Tybalt challenges him to a fight. Roméo intervenes, and asks Tybalt to end the hatred between the two families (Capulet and Montaigu). Tybalt kills Mercutio in a duel, and Roméo stabs Tybalt to death.

Oh no.

Roméo is exiled by the Duke of Verona.

Oh boy.

By Act 4, Roméo and Juliette have spent their secret wedding night in Juliette’s bedroom.

Yay!

Juliette forgives Roméo for killing Tybalt.

Yes, that’s right. Really?

The newlyweds passionately declare their love as the day is dawning, and can hardly bring themselves to say goodbye.

Awww and oh boy.

Desperate, Juliette turns to Frère Laurent, who gives Juliette a “magical/witchcraft sleep potion” that will make Juliette appear to be dead.

Yes, that’s right. Really?

Frère Laurent promises Juliette, that she will awaken with Roméo besides her. Juliette takes the poison.

Oh boy. Really?

On the way to the chapel, where Juliette’s wedding to Count Pâris is to take place later on, Juliette collapses, and to the guests’ horror, Juliette is declared dead.

Oh boy.

Finally, Act 5 has Roméo break into the Capulet’s crypt. Faced with a seemingly dead Juliette, Roméo takes “real” poison. A few seconds later, Juliette awakens, and the two love birds share a final moment of happiness.

Oh boy.

When Juliette realizes that Roméo is about to die, she stabs herself, and both, ask for God’s forgiveness, before they both collapse.

Oh no. So sad.

But this is theater and opera, of course, which often ends tragically, but is still incredibly beautiful, and often, deeply moving as well.

Yay!

What to say about the production?

That Bartlett Sher’s production was awesome and gorgeous.

Yay!

I especially loved the constant contrast found on stage between darkness and light, thanks especially to beautiful lighting, by lighting designer, Jennifer Tipton, which further elevated the drama unfolding.

I also especially enjoyed the fact that most “room” was made on stage, for the nascent and powerful love between the young “love birds”, to be seen front and center, and showing off the youthful energy of the young lovers.

Yay!

And finally, I especially enjoyed one other particular detail: the initial scintillating celebratory glittering rain to “introduce” Juliette to the various guests, at the ball.

So beautiful and fun.

I also was especially was taken, with the 18th century “Venetian looking” masked ball costumes, by the hyper talented Catherine Zuber, which were, as always, beautiful and elegant, with dark tones for the gowns, emphasizing well, the looming tragedy of this epic love story, cut short.

Wow.

What to say about the conductor and performers?

That the orchestra, the choruses, and all the singers, under the expert baton of conductor extraordinaire, the incredibly talented, and Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, were incredibly subtle, sensitive, and wonderful.

Wow and bravo!

And two huge stars, particularly stood out for me, and were especially “fêted” and applauded by the audience:

First, I have to start off with French tenor, Benjamin Bernheim, who was wonderfully convincing as the love stricken, Roméo. What charm and seductive powers he possesses, and what a beautiful and clear sounding tenor voice, he exhibits. And being French, his diction of course, was perfect, and a rare treat for New York audiences.

Bravo!

Second, American soprano, Nadine Sierra, was equally convincing, as the love stricken, Juliette. What a great actress she is, depicting perfectly the youthful, and ready for anything “love bird”, that Juliette is, in addition to being a wonderful singer, and what incredible feats of technique, and what beautiful color her voice can display.

Bravo!

Bravo!

Bravo!

So, to sum up my feelings, about Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette”, admired last Thursday March 7th, at the Met Opera, in great company: what a beautiful, iconic, inspiring, and yet highly tragic opera, and how musically and poetically ravishing. And how especially awesome are both, Bernheim and Sierra, as the doomed “love birds”. And finally, what an elegant, stunning, and timeless Sher production, keeping the love story front and center, to everyone’s delight.

Bravo!

Just terrific!

And not to be missed!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊