[Met Performance] CID:351357
Roméo et Juliette {303} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/21/2005.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 21, 2005


ROMÉO ET JULIETTE {303}
Gounod-Barbier/Carré

Roméo...................Ramón Vargas
Juliette................Natalie Dessay
Frère Laurent...........Kristinn Sigmundsson
Stéphano................Theodora Hanslowe
Mercutio................Stéphane Degout
Benvolio................Tony Stevenson
Gertrude................Jane Bunnell
Capulet.................Frederick Burchinal
Tybalt..................Dimitri Pittas
Pâris...................Daniel Sutin
Grégorio................David Won
Duke of Verona..........Julien Robbins

Conductor...............Bertrand de Billy

Production..............Guy Joosten
Set Designer............Johannes Leiacker
Costume Designer........Jorge Jara
Lighting designer.......David Cunningham
Choreographer...........Seán Curran

Review of David J. Baker in the February 2006 issue of OPERA NEWS

Joining the run after her cancellation on the first night, Dessay (heard Nov. 21) offered a youthful, affecting Juliette. But it could not fulfill the expectations generated by the one-woman circus that is her Zerbinetta, possibly because the director tried too hard. Joosten has devised opportunities for the heroine that seem tailored to Dessay's comic, acrobatic strengths but prove risky in Gounod's romantic drama. It's fine for the young couple to giggle together and make fun of Frère Laurent
during their wedding, especially since Dessay and Vargas do so with a charm associated with the characters' fascination with each other. (The two singers also blend their voices sensitively in all their duets.) But mocking their own feelings during the compressed courtship? This seems too counterintuitive by half. It's also inappropriate for Romèo to play the clown just moments after his sincerity has been questioned. The heroine's instant striptease before the assembled wedding guests is another distraction, making you admire Dessay's lithe form, her quick reflexes and designer Jara's Houdini-style bridal gown.

The soprano gives words their full weight; her hollow coloring of Juliette's monotone ("Le cercueil sera mon lit nuptial") on learning Romeo's identity made an ideal contrast to the lighter-than-air waltz song (even at less than dazzling tempo) and her initial coltishness. In her final aria, her timbre drenched with anguish, Dessay conveyed some of the full-throttle emotion Gounod's character seems to lack elsewhere (such as in shrugging off the death of her cousin Tybalt). Technically, some roughness here in the trilled As and the steps up to high C suggested the effects of a lingering indisposition; this could have explained Dessay's apparent avoidance of forte singing throughout the evening, with a habitual diminuendo on the highest sustained notes and phrases. Caution this may have been, but it was also artistry - and a nuance of fragility not commonly associated with Natalie Dessay.

Another cast change brought Theodora Hanslowe in the trouser role of Stéphano. Though still a little uncertain in the fast-moving duel, the mezzo sang the sardonic
aria smoothly.



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