Romeo & Juliet

You know the tragic tale, but you probably haven’t heard it the way Gounod intended it. This musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers arrives just in time to commemorate the 400th anniversary of The Bard’s death, and is performed by a cast of rising opera stars.

Synopsis

Verona, the 14th century. A chorus chants of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and of their children, the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo & Juliet was composed by Charles Gounod with a libretto by Jules Barbier & Michel Carré. Romeo & Juliet premiered at Théâtre Lyrique, Paris on April 27, 1867.

ACT I

At a masked ball at the Capulet palace, Juliet’s arrival is eagerly awaited by her cousin Tybalt and her suitor Paris. Capulet presents his daughter, the revelers exclaim at her beauty, and Juliette rhapsodizes on her joy. The host leads his guests off just as Romeo, a Montague, and his friends, all masked, steal into the ballroom intent on provoking a fight. Romeo has dreamed the night before, and Mercutio, one of his companions, launches into a song about Queen Mab, the mistress of dreams. Suddenly Romeo sees Juliette at a distance. As she waltzes around the room, singing of the freedom of youth, Romeo shyly approaches her, asking if his hand may touch hers. Tybalt returns just as Juliette tells her name to Romeo, who masks himself and rushes off. Tybalt identifies the intruder as Montague’s son, but Capulet restrains him, ordering the party to continue.

ACT II

Later that night, Romeo hides until Mercutio and other friends stop calling for him. Then he apostrophizes Juliet as the sun, the purest, brightest star. The girl steps forth on her balcony to lament her attraction for an enemy, and Romeo comes forward. The two ecstatically pledge their love but are interrupted by some Capulets searching for a Montague page. Then Romeo and Juliet tenderly bid each other good night.

At Friar Laurence’s cell, Romeo appears at daybreak, followed by Juliet and her nurse, Gertrude. The priest agrees to marry the young lovers in the hope that their union will end the feud between their families.

Outside Capulet’s house, Romeo’s page, Stephano, sings a mocking song, which provokes a fight with Gregorio and other Capulet retainers. Mercutio protects Stephano and is challenged by Tybalt, who insults Romeo when he tries to make peace. Mercutio duels Tybalt to defend the Montague honor and is slain, whereupon Romeo kills Tybalt. The Duke of Verona stops the bloodshed, banishing Romeo from the city.

ACT III

At dawn in Juliet’s bedroom, the lovers exchange words of adoration before Romeo reluctantly leaves for exile. Capulet and Friar Laurence greet Juliet with news that she is to wed Paris that very day, but the priest gives her a sleeping potion that will make her appear dead. He promises that she will wake with Romeo beside her. Juliet drinks the potion, and when Capulet and the others arrive to lead her to the church, she collapses.

ACT IV

In a gloomy tomb, Romeo soliloquizes on his beloved Juliet, whom he believes dead. In despair he takes poison, only to see Juliet awaken. They hail a new life, but Romeo soon falters. He bids farewell to the frantic girl, who grasps his dagger and stabs herself. The lovers die praying for God’s forgiveness.

About the Composer

Charles Gounod

(1818-1893)

The son of a painter and a pianist, Gounod showed an early artistic talent. He was educated at the Lycée Saint-Louis and in music at the Paris Conservatoire. He won the Prix de Rome in 1839. Intending to become a priest, he did not produce any important music until his opera Sappho appeared in 1851. Gounod became the most popular opera composer of his time with the première of his Faust in 1859.

His success was assured with Roméo et Juliette in 1867, which as had the greatest popular success of the many operatic versions of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Gounod relocated to London in 1870, where he founded what would become the Royal Choral Society. His other operas include Le médecin malgré lui (based on Moliére’s play, 1858), Philémon et Baucis (1860), La reine de Saba (1862), Mirelle (1864), and Le tribut deZamora (1881). After a string of bad reviews, Gounod decided to give up writing for the stage, and spent the last years of his live devoted to sacred and instrumental music.

Production

James Meena

conductor

Bernard Uzan

director

Michael Baumgarten

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION & LIGHTING DESIGNER