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Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Roméo et Juliette - Opera in five acts (1867) [143.44]
Roméo - Andrea Bocelli
Juliette - Maite Alberola
Le Duc de Vérone - Fabrizio Beggi
Le Comte Pâris - Franco Sala
Le Comte Capulet - Marzio Giossi
Gertrude - Elena Traversi
Tybalt - Blagoj Nacoski
Mercutio - Alessandro Luongo
Stéphano - Annalisa Stroppa
Grégorio - Biagio Pizzuti
Benevolio - Manuel Pierattelli
Frère Laurent - Andrea Mastroni
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova/Fabio Luisi
rec. 21-28 February, 1-3 March 2012. DDD
DECCA 478 4372 [63:44 + 80.00]


 
Gounod’s Faust may overshadow his other eleven operas but his Roméo et Juliette succeeded in running a sound second. This Roméo et Juliette has much to commend it. Gounod’s version follows the David Garrick revamping of Shakespeare’s take on the ancient Italian story of passion and vendetta; just as did Berlioz for his dramatic symphony. It allows Romeo and Juliet to have a scene together before they both die. One of its strengths is the four romantic and dramatic duets for the two principals plus considerable solos for them and for other prominent characters. There’s also a major role for the chorus who sketch in so much of the story.
 
The melodramatic and fugal overture speaks dramatically of the century-old strife between the Montagues and Capulets. The choir eloquently fill in detail and go on to describe the atmosphere and events of the Capulets’ ball with its delightful dance music. Gounod’s heady melodies, imaginatively orchestrated, create an exciting and anticipatory atmosphere here. This opening act has many riches including Juliette’s waltz song ‘Je veux vivre dans le rêve’ in which she declares she wants to enjoy her youth rather than succumb to the blandishments of Paris. Haughtily, Alberola, sounding a little too mature for Juliette, rises to the coloratura challenges of this celebrated aria. Her diction does not always have the clarity that Bocelli brings to his Romeo. Bocelli impresses throughout. Just listen to how ardently his tones ring out as he declares his passion in the balcony scene. Then hear how he communicates his utter despair in the final act aria, ‘Salut, tombeau sombre et silencieux!’ as he sees his Juliette lying motionless on a bier before discovering, too late to save himself, that her death has been feigned. Romeo and Juliette’s four duets are dramatic and emotional triumphs from the tender leave-taking at the end of the balcony scene to the heart-rending tragedy of the final scene. Gounod’s orchestral lullaby, as Romeo takes his leave is so tenderly captivating.
 
Another Act I treasure is Mercutio’s presto ballad about Queen Mab, deceiver, weaver of dreams to Gounod’s quicksilver, will-o’-the-wisp music. It’s delivered with gusto by Alessandro Luongo’s Mercutio. Traversi’s Gertrude is all concern and conspiratorial assistance as Juliette’s matronly nurse. The oaken-voiced Andrea Mastroni as Father Laurent is another of this production’s strong assets. His aria ‘Buvez donc ce breuvage’ as he hands Juliette the vial containing the draught that will fake her death, is just another memorable moment. Again Gounod’s orchestral backing, sympathetically read by Fabio Luisi, speaks volumes. Juliette’s extended aria after she takes the draught is another high point and Alberola is quite magnificent here especially when she reaches that sublime melody at “… To fear, were my love to betray! Never! Never! Rather for dead may he bemoan me!...”
 
An outstanding and memorable production of Gounod’s ‘other opera’.
 

Ian Lace
 


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