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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Romeo et Juliette at the Vienna State Opera

    Roméo et Juliette

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    Opera in five acts, sung in French; music by Charles Gounod; libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on the original by William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
    Premiered on April 27, 1867 at the Thêatre-Lyrique Imperial du Châtelet, Paris, France

    Recorded at the Vienna State Opera on January 1st, 2017, broadcast on 3sat TV on 12/23/2017 20:15 CET, 14:15 EST

    Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
    Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
    Bühnenorchester der Wiener Staatsoper

    Plácido Domingo - Conductor
    Thomas Lang - Chorus Master
    Jürgen Flimm (Opera Lively interviewee) - Stage Director
    Sets and Lights - Patrick Woodroffe
    Costumes - Birgit Hutter
    Choreography - Renato Zanella

    Aida Garifullina - Juliette Capulets
    Juan Diego Flórez (Opera Lively interviewee) - Roméo Montague
    Gabriel Bermúdez - Mercutio
    Dan Paul Dumitrescu - Frère Laurent
    Rachel Frenkel - Stéphano
    Rosie Aldridge - Gertrude
    Igor Onishchenko - Paris
    Ayk Martirossian - Grégorio
    Wolfgang Bankl - Capulet
    Alexandru Moisiuc - Le Duc

    ------------

    This was a phenomenal show put together by one of the top opera companies in the world, the Vienna State Opera. First of all, the physical production was magnificent. Just like a recent performance of Rigoletto by the Zurich Opera that I've just reviewed, it seems like lately the German-language companies may be moving away from the ultra-heavy Regie concepts (which were becoming a stereotype as well while trying to move away from older stereotypes - I mean, those productions that never fail to have a lot of blood, some dead animals, some naked people, machine guns, trash all around, and Fascist imagery), in favor of non-distracting, minimalist stagings that allow the focus to be on the singing and acting. This doesn't mean that the sets can't be beautiful - and here they were. Very spare, some tables, an altar, a lighted semi-circle for Juliette's room, some columns, but with exquisite lighting (blue on black background, starry skies, spotlights, etc.) providing for visual entertainment without fatigue. Contemporary costumes were also colorful and imaginative, with some simple solutions that worked (members of one family with red scarves, the other family with blue scarves). Choreography and blocking were accomplished and smooth. It appears like stage directors are leaving the telling of the story to the singers and the orchestra. Jürgen Flimm is a genius anyway, so no wonder his production was this good.

    A lot of people have complained of Plácido Domingo over the years, as a conductor. I must say that he seems to have learned, because I'm usually very demanding regarding the quality of conducting and orchestral play, but I couldn't find any flaw whatsoever in this excellent performance by the Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, always with the right dynamics and competent singer support, with the score being delivered with the correct tempo and all transitions and balance being pretty much perfect. Bravo, maestro Domingo! Not to forget, the chorus was also superb.

    Acting while not enough to write home about, was very decent. One little observation, just so that I don't appear to be only praising and praising without a critical regard, hehe: for the first time in years (thanks to the singers' prodigious memory and the prompters) I spotted two failures in the use of the French language with botched lines; one by Juan Diego, and one by the singer doing Tybalt (oops, when I typed up the credits apparently I forgot to write down his name). I don't recall another instance of this in years and several hundred performances (the last one I noticed was with Bryn Terfel murdering an Italian line in Le Nozze di Figaro) so it's a bit surprising to see it happening twice in one show. But, I know, this is nitpicking. It is of little importance.

    Another positive trend is that lately broadcasts have featured video directors who don't want to get too "smart" like we recently mentioned regarding the failed filming of Alice in Wonderland for the available commercial DVD of it.Video direction here was conventional and effective, with the usual alternation between close-ups and wide-angle shots, without any attempt to get "cute."

    So far, so good. A++ in all aspects of the physical production (sets, lighting, costumes, video) and stage direction, the same score for the orchestra, the chorus, and the conductor, and an A for the acting, with A++ for blocking and choreography. Microphone capture wasn't ideal; volume did vary a bit and singers would be less audible when they turned their backs or sides to the front of the stage. Probably the capture was done only from the front. But it wasn't horrible; we could hear them OK for the duration.

    Now, the singing. Oh my God, I had sort of forgotten how good Juan Diego Flóres is. It's been a while since I last saw him. While he was already stupendous last time I heard him, he seems to be getting better and better, with the voice darkening a tiny bit and acquiring a prettier timbre as opposed to his more metallic past. His "Ah lève-toi soleil" was a thing of beauty, and he sang well during all five acts, in his effortless manner of keeping perfect pitch control including in the passagio to the high notes. A sublime performance!

    I believe that Aida Garifullina is currently the most beautiful female opera singer in the entire business. It's hard not to be mesmerized by her looks. In this regard, it is the perfect physique du rôle, because Juliette is supposed to be a stunning teenager, and Aida certainly looks the part. As for the singing, I like her a lot but she started cold. Interesting enough, her voice seemed to warm up in the middle of "Je veux vivre", as she sang the second part of the aria way better than the first part. From that point on she was fine. Her voice appeared smallish (surprisingly, I had previously found her to be powerful, but then, that was from recitals with a mike; it's hard to judge anyway in an online broadcast) which by the way if it is true, is not a problem for her current repertory, but high-powered Juan Diego did smother her a little in some of the duets. Otherwise, she sang beautifully, with elegance and good musicality. It was her role debut; she should do it better in subsequent performances. She is still a very young singer and should grow even more. She has the potential to become a huge star, and is already fulfilling this promise in Europe, where she's been singing in the best opera houses. I hope to be lucky enough to catch a performance of hers in person, in the near future.

    Dumitrescu and Bankl did a good job as the more mature figures of Frère Laurent and the senior Capulet. I didn't like very much Rachel Frenkel as Stéphano. What's with this role? It is very hard to find a singer who does well with the Tourterelle song with its wild leaps, and this singer was anemic too. Bermúdez was correct but not great; a bit under-powered. Audridge was OK. Other comprimarios didn't disappoint, especially Moisiuc who did his small role well.

    So, overall, the singing was A++ for Juan Diego, A+ for Aida, and a collective B+ to A for the others. All things considered this was a very nice show, highly recommended, extremely proficient although not perfect with some small flaws, therefore it earns a global score of A+.

    This broadcast will continue to stream I believe for 7 more days on the website of the 3sat TV channel, accessible to people with IPs from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland [click (here)]. Subtitles are in German only, so those who don't speak the language (like me) have an interest in looking up another source for the libretto (I followed it by opening on an older laptop the libretto site Kareol.es which gave me the French text, while I watched the very good HD image on my newer laptop).

    If you have an opportunity to catch this show before it is gone, don't miss it!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 24th, 2017 at 03:57 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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