Roméo et Juliette

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There are many ways to spend New Year’s Eve, but for us the Opera is both spiritually rewarding and an artistic adventure. “The Merry Widow” with Renee Fleming one year, “The Pearl Fishers” with Diana Damrau the next, and THIS year “Romeo et Juliette” with Diana Damrau again and the Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo.

Charles Gounod’s creation was everyone’s gain that opening night, as the two lovers moved with fierce and committed passion into each other’s arms and towards their certain demise.

We have all witnessed love scenes, but the total transformation by the two singers mesmerized us all. Since you can’t beat perfection: Anthony Tommasini wrote: “In scene after scene, these exciting and charismatic artists disappeared into their characters, emboldening each other to sing with white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism.” So TRUE.

The direction by Bartlett Sher created an 18th Century Veronese environment for the progression from the Ball to the Balcony scene, then came the Bed ingeniously created by a huge white sheet strategically placed across the stage, finally the Tomb where one always wants to cry out “She’s not dead!” (because the Priest never comes on time.)

After these wrenching scenes of adoration, murder, foreboding, fear and death, it is always satisfying to show one’s appreciation during the curtain calls. Since there was no curtain, the entire cast filled the stage while the audience applauded non-stop for many minutes. Most in demand, of course, were the stars Damrau and Grigolo whose bows were greeted by lusty cheers and Bravo’s. The audience just couldn’t get enough, and seemingly neither could adorable Vittorio, who continued his “bows” during the dinner party upstairs.

Midnight saw enthusiastic fireworks on the balcony of the Grand Tier and many shouts of “Happy New Year” and it was over. All but the memories which will linger forever.

Barbara Tober

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