Tuesday, May 28

Roméo et Juliette – Met Opera Live in HD

Bartlett Sher’s production may be rather staid and static in its staging of Gounod’s sumptuous Shakespeare adaptation but this tale of two star-crossed lovers touched the heavens tonight as its two stars shone brightly and lit up the stage.

Lord Capulet (Nathan Berg) is hosting a ball where he hopes to pair off his daughter Juliette Nadine Sierra) with Count Paris (Daniel Rich) but she is not keen. When Roméo (Benjamin Bernheim) appears however the two are immediately love-struck and he has to hide from his friends Mercutio (Will Liverman), Stéphano (Samantha Hankey), and Benvolio (Thomas Capobianco). Her cousin Tybalt (Frederick Ballantine) is less than impressed with the presence of these sworn enemies and accompanied by Gregorio (Jeongcheol Cha), he swears revenge. Romeo and Juliette continue their courtship aided by her nurse, Gertrude (Eve Gigliotti), and Frère Laurent (Alfred Walker) who sees it as a way of reconciling the warring families. But when events take a darker course, even the balanced action of the Duke of Verona (Richard Bernstein) may not be enough to stay fate from following an untimely course.

Sher has opted to set the piece in the 18th Century, so it is less Renaissance and more decadence although that didn’t really come across in Michael Yeardley’s set design. Although beautifully lit by Jennifer Tipton and costumed by Catherine Zuber, the production felt more about not being Zeffirelli which is a shame because it rapidly run out of ideas, failing to embrace the fantasy and romance at the heart of this tale. If truth be told, it wasn’t to matter because the real drama unfolded beautifully through the performances on stage although I would acknowledge some wonderful choreography from Chase Brock and fight sequences from B.H. Barry.

There are strong performances from the cast who were all in good voice. Gigliotti caught the humour of the nurse perfectly and I enjoyed the playful flirtation with Cha which contrasted perfectly with his later contretemps with Hankey’s swaggering Stéphano who in turn delivered a fine Act III solo. Ballantine was an excellent Tybalt although Liverman’s forceful Mercutio needed a little more finesse for my liking, with Walker and Berg both philosophical in their own way. Capobianco and Rich presented stoic figures whilst Bernstein’s subdued vocal reinforced his poised authority.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin returned to Gounod leading a lustrous performance that did its utmost to support its starry lovers. The rambunctious crowd scenes were pleasing, though the chorus perhaps sounded a bit fatigued from its concurrent Verdi and Puccini duties.

But this is a story of two lovers and our two stars tonight were a wonder to behold with wonderful all-round performances from Sierra and Bernheim with support from Yannick Nézet-Séguin who led the orchestra in a bright performance with each moment of hope and misfortune echoed on stage by the chorus. 

Sierra caught the youthful demeanour and naivety of Juliette, matching it with a warm voice that was lovely throughout her range and her Act IV potion aria was superb as she reached a magnificent series of high notes again and again which was correspondingly matched by the break for applause that went on and on.

Bernheim with the advantage of singing in his own language was smooth and seamless as me moved across his range with a clean, clear, and crisp vocal that reflected the ardent desire of his Roméo.

Sierra and Bernheim are clearly comfortable with each other and as a result of their on-stage chemistry, when they combined vocally something special happened, their voices blending beautifully during the series of four duets to show that in spite of their youthful inexperience, these lovers shared a deeper heartfelt bond. Bravo!

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 23rd March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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