By:  Iride Aparicio
Photos Courtesy: The Metropolitan Opera

SAN JOSÉ, CA –  “There are many ways to have iterations of Shakespeare –In film in musicals, in opera,” – writes director BARTLETT SHER in the MET’s program, discussing his production of GOUNOD’s Roméo et Juliette opera  that premiere at the Met on December 31, 2016, after successful runs in Salzburg, Milan and Chicago. “Opera is one of the best. It’s a very good, expressive medium for Shakespeare.”  In his production of Roméo et Juliette , SHER mastered the medium. The High Definition Live Performance of  his work, shown on local theaters on January 21st, was profound.

A High Definition Live Performance (HD Live performance) , is an event originally recorded in High Definition, that it is being watched by an audience in a movie theatre.   How it feels to watch a HD Live performance, cannot be described  in words because each person perceives the event feeling different sensations.

For those who has not yet seen a Met HD Live Production, (A recorded production of an Opera that was recorded in High Definition and is projected on the screen of a local movie theatre) the experience may be fascinating. It may be described as “being there, without actually being there,” with the added advantage to observe minute details, seldom seem by the Theater’s actual audience.

Because the Opera is transmitted Live, it also allows the  audience, not only to watch the performance, (as it is being presented in the original stage) but to watch the performance’s actors  singers, or dancers in Close ups. For example, when one of them is alone rehearsing an aria in their rehearsal rooms, practicing their dance steps or applying make up to their faces.

More important to those interested in the performers, an HD Live performance also allows us to "meet them" talking to a Host or Hostess and hear snips of interviews. Those interviewed may be the principal stars, the Production Director, the Orchestra Conductor of a person of importance discussing different aspects of their art. For example a designer talking about the the museums he or she visited and the books he or she read to get the  idea for a set.  Our “make-believe-tour” also allows us, the movie theatre audience, to walk behind the stage before a performance, and observe the stage workers preparing the scenery for the next scene, or sneak inside the costumes’ sewing room and actually hear (from a seamstress) demonstrating her work, how the fantastic Opera costumes for the Met Productions are created.  

GRIGOLO, as Romeo watches  Mercutio MADORE is hurt by Tybalt Capulet
 GRIGOLO, as Roméo watches  Mercutio MADORE being hurt by Tybalt Capulet

Since everybody is familiar with the star-crossed-lover plot, "Roméo and Juliette", we will start by describing the Opera taking place in a set (MICHAEL YEARGAN) representing early Renaissance Verona in the l8th Century, with several tall building to give the audience the feeling of being in an Italian Piazza, so they could feel the social nature of the story. The buildings have several balconies, one of them, required for the story. The “extreme” costumes (designed by CATHERINE ZUBER) give the CAPULET's party, which is the opening scene) the extreme sense of the decadence, richness and wealth of the times in which our story is taking place.

Called  “The thrilling star team” by the New York Observer, Soprano DIANA DAMRAU sang the role of Juliette and tenor VITTORIO GRIGOLO the role of Roméo in the  HD Live Production of  CHARLES FRANÇOIS GOUNOD Opera “ROMÉO ET JULIETTE” with Libretto by JULES BARBIER and MICHAEL CARRÉ. The BARTLETT SHER  Production opened in New York on New Year’s Eve. The Broadcast Live was on January 21st and it has been one of the best MET Broadcas Live we have ever watched. Its impact was so powerful, that it managed to, emotionally, drain the audience.

The performance itself, was the perfect combination of sound and sight. With GUNOUD’s Lyric score, masterfully being  interpreted the orchestra under Conductor GIANANDREA NOSEDA,   the marvelous coloratura voice of DAMRAU, blending with the richness and warmth of GRIGOLO’s tone. The richness of the singers voices, the chorus, and above all the acting of the leads, which was superb.

GUNOUDs ROMÉO ET JULIETTE premiered at the  Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, 1867.  Because of his love theme, the Opera is considered and example of French romanticism and we all agree that it is the world’s consummate love story.

While Musically, GUNOUD’s Opera is subtle, it is filled with sensuality and sexuality. Instead of all the battles, in the story, GUNOUD focused his work on the two lovers. who are given four irresistible love duets for them to sing.   A masterful composer and orchestrator, GUNOUD’s was able to convey the  mood of the story in Lyrical melodies One of them, a light piece, probably the best known Arietta, that DAMRAU sang beautifully In Juliette’s Waltz.

DIANA DAMRAU as Juliette  sings “juliette’s Waltz”for her Birthday’s guests.
DIANA DAMRAU as Juliette  sings “Juliette’s Waltz”for her Birthday’s guests.

Moving gracefully, with the agility of a young girl, we see DAMRAU as Juliette enjoying the elegant birthday party her father had prepared for her, before meeting the boy, that attracted her attention among her guests. Sadly, before the party is over, she learns that the boy who stole her heart was Roméo belonging to, her enemies, those from the House of Montague.

Interesting musically, is to call attention to  Roméo’s Cavatina, in which GUNOUD’s tries to portrait, in sounds, the feeling of a young man completely enraptured by his emotions, conducting himself with heroism but being aware and sensing the danger he is in.

But it is in Act IV, introduced by "Non, non, ce ne es past le jour' where we could hear (and feel) the orchestra, expressing, in sounds, the passion of the lovers tender meeting in a passionate melody which illustrates in every note the consummation of the lovers love.


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A magnificent duet  in the opera is the duet before the Parting of the lovers,  “Nuit d’ Hymenée  in which, according to some writers, Shakespeare’s verse (Translated to French) was taken by BARBIER and CARRÉ almost literarily from Shakespeare’s play. If we listen to the music in the above segment, we could detect  the extreme despair of the lovers who have to part from each other when all they want is to remain together.   GUNOUD describes so well the lovers’dispair, in the way he structured his music. To many music critics, the tone of this particular duet is of the most moving passages in the Opera’s score

A Great Love defied even death

The next performance of the METROPOITAN OPERA HD Live, performance, will be  RUSALKA, A lyric Fairy tale by ANONIN DVORAK on SAT, FEB 25, 2017, for information on the live performance time in your time zone and theaters go to