Gounod, Roméo et Juliette (1867)
Roméo et Juliette
It’s an opera of duets. More about the music
here. You’ll know some of these songs – and the
best known are not from Shakespeare! “Je veux
vivre” was inserted for the first soprano singing
the role (here’s Diana Damrau at the Met) and
Stephano, Romeo’s page was invented - starting
the fatal fight with the
teasing song about a turtle
dove that’s escaping, “Que
tourterelle?” Here’s the
wonderful Isobel Leonard.
But is it Shakespeare?
There’s a lot of
whole speeches – though
sometimes miss the
original. (“Ô Roméo,
pourquoi ce nom est-il le
tien?” for “Wherefore art
thou Romeo?”). Where
Britten used the play as a
libretto, Gounod used the
A cornucopia of composers
Confused? We’ve moved in this term from
Baroque to twentieth century composers, and
we’re now back in the nineteenth, whose array of
operas is unparalleled. Gounod’s work typified
romanticism. “Romanticism,” wrote the novelist
Stendhal in 1823, “is the art of presenting people
with literary works that, given the
current state of their habits and
beliefs, are likely to give them the
greatest possible pleasure.” (more)
For general overviews of opera styles
and timelines, go to the Resources
page in our archives.
He’s remembered now mainly for his
Faust – and particularly the jewel
song – (Dame Joan sings it here) and
the engaging Devil (Opera Australia
offers Teddy Tahu Rhodes as
Mephistopheles next year. ) Gounod
wrote 12 operas.
plot and ideas. He used the same librettists as
for Faust - Jules Barbier & Michel Carré – and
they kept the structure and sometimes the words
of the play, cutting some scenes not focussed on
the lovers, and changing the end, so Romeo is
still alive for a final duet. See it here.
Interested in how they used the Bard? Here’s
Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech from play and
That tenor role
Roberto Alagna made it his role in his youth.
Here’s the final duet in the 1994 production we
will watch. And again with then wife Angela
Gheorghiu in 2002 for the final duet . Then in
2007 with Netrebko.
Our production, Friday 23 Aug.
Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 1994.
Conductor - Charles Mackerras, Romeo (ten)
- Roberto Alagna, Juliet (sop) - Leontina