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 fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?” Here’s the wonderful Isobel Leonard. But is it Shakespeare? There’s a lot of Shakespeare, including whole speeches – though multiple translations 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. Charles-Francis Gounod (1818-1893) 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 opera. 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 Vaduva.

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