This is definitely the year for romance, and “Roméo and Juliette” are everywhere… Ballet and Opera for sure.
We had the opportunity to see Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo on New Year’s Eve, and I wrote about how beautiful and heart-rending it was.
Now, in March an almost new “production” appeared at The Metropolitan Opera with the same sets, but new singers and directors shaping the scenes and behaviors somewhat differently. It still comes out in the end as a tragedy, but with slightly different shadings; enough for one to notice.
The cast was, in general, younger and more adventuresome. Pretty Yende, a South African beauty, was Juliette; Stephen Costello was Roméo (a bit stiff, and he couldn’t climb to the balcony), but still a manly suitor. Yunpeng Wang, a Member of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, was an excellent and facile Mercutio who escaped the penetrating sabers to live again!
Even Frère Laurent promised to be more helpful but, sadly, in the end the lovers were alone in the crypt and did what they always do and the Father never shows up. How sad; I always want the poison to be a placebo.
An ADDENDUM to this was an entire Sunday afternoon at The Metropolitan Opera for the 2016-2017 Season Grand Finals, conducted by Nicola Luisotti and hosted by Renée Fleming.
This was a grueling test of nine artists who came to display their talents: Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Countertenor, Tenor, Bass-Baritone… they all selected arias from their favorite (or most difficult?) repertoires to show before an audience packed to the rafters by opera fans.
Each sang two arias with superb accompaniment by a conductor who clearly understood the tension with which contestant presented his/her offering. Each was incredibly well sung and timed, and this year not only were there winners, but additional winners (six instead of four), signaling that the quality and training has improved steadily over the years.
We all can look forward to many years of glorious music ahead.