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Blog entries tagged with Romeo et Juliette

Machaidze/Grigolo CD signing on Nov. 26

Photo by Robert Millard

After the final performance of Romeo et Juliette on Saturday, November 26, soprano Nino Machaidze and tenor Vittorio Grigolo will participate in a 60-minute CD signing. Merchandise will be available for sale in the lobby Opera Shop. The signing will take place in the lobby of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, on the Grand Avenue side of the theater. (The signing will begin after the artists have had sufficient time to change after the performance.) For tickets to that performance, please click here . For tickets to any of the three remaining performances of Romeo et Juliette, please click here .

Tweet to Win 2 Orchestra Level Tickets for Romeo et Juliette Opening Performance!

R&J Tweets

Who wants a pair of orchestra level tickets to Gonoud’s Roméo et Juliette starring Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo, Nino Machaidze as Juliette, and conducted by Placido Domingo?

So, how creative can you be in 140 characters or less? Funny, irreverent, serious… all are fair game, just be clever, creative and have fun! Be sure to use the #RJ140 hashtag and @replies so we see your tweets! (Learn more about @ replies on Twitter here .)

But first, a little housekeeping:

• LA Opera’s #RJ140 Tweet Contest begins Friday, October 28 at 8am and ends Sunday, October 30 at midnight. Winner will be announced in our November 1 newsletter and notified via Direct Message on Twitter.

• Don’t use multiple accounts to enter. It’s against Twitter’s rules and could get all your Twitter accounts suspended. Anyone found using multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible.

• Don’t post duplicate, or near duplicate, updates. This is also a violation of Twitter’s rules and jeopardizes search quality. In other words, if you post the same thing over and over, your tweet may not show up in search. And if we don’t see it, you aren’t entered into the contest.

• The prize is for two (2) orchestra level tickets only, transportation is not included.

Now go forth and tweet the story of woe between Juliette and her Roméo! Good luck!

Gounod and Shakespeare: Masters of Music and Words

By Basil De Pinto

Early and late in his career, Shakespeare wrote about all-consuming passion. Romeo and Juliet is a domestic drama about the reckless, headstrong love of teenagers; Antony and Cleopatra deals with a world-weary historical couple whose romance plays out on a vast stage and alters the course of history. Although the later play is a far superior work of art, the story of the children of fair Verona is the one that has captured the hearts of millions through the ages, and has inspired retelling in every conceivable form: spoken theater, ballet, film, the Broadway musical, symphonic treatment and, many times over, in opera.

Although he wrote a good deal of music, Charles Gounod is primarily remembered for Faust, his operatic treatment of the great classic of German literature. The Germans thought little of his effort and always refer to his opera as Margarete, the woman Faust seduces (Gretchen in Goethe’s original). Eight years after Faust, in 1867, and with several more operas to his credit, Gounod brought out Roméo et Juliette, a work of outstanding musical and dramatic power. It deserves its own place in the operatic pantheon.

The music of an opera has to begin with a text, a story, an idea that gives a composer the impulse to expand and amplify beyond verbal limits to the fullness of dramatic communication that we call musical theater. (In Italy, the home of opera, the whole operatic project is called simply il teatro.) The librettists for Roméo, Barbier and Carré, were experienced at adapting literary texts for operatic use, having already served Gounod and other composers in that capacity. Naturally enough, they had to pare down Shakespeare’s text to a manageable size and they did a good, workmanlike job which is more than a sketch, if less than a literary masterpiece. But it served the purpose of stimulating Gounod to writing music of extraordinary romantic and dramatic scope.

The process by which a play of some thousands of lines is reduced to proportions suitable for an opera is instructive; the challenge consists of maintaining the basic outlines of the story as well as the overall concept of the original. Inevitably there will be compromises involving characters and situations; omissions will be necessary and may seem fatal to those familiar with the play. For example, the first scene takes place at the Capulets’ ball, omitting much of the exposition which serves to delineate the character of Shakespeare’s Romeo. But, as in the play, there is a prologue, here sung by the chorus, which does indicate the nature of the dispute between the two houses.

A major change and stumbling block might seem the survival of Roméo in the last scene so that the two lovers can sing their final duet. But in one of Shakespeare’s supreme works, Desdemona revives briefly after Othello has strangled her, and no one seems to be troubled by that. The willing suspension of disbelief sets in as soon as we accept three walls on any stage, and continues unabated.

Barbier and Carré are surely to be commended for the large elements in Roméo that correspond to Shakespeare’s unfolding of the plot and which give the opera its essential dramatic structure: the ball in the opening scene, the balcony scene, Roméo’s duel with Tybalt and his condemnation to exile, the lovers’ parting, and the final scene in the tomb. Each of these segments is clothed in music of outstanding dramatic quality and, at times, of musical genius. The major characters come across as fully believable persons of the drama, and the central idea of the star-crossed lovers is amply presented: when hatred and violence are given their head, love is destroyed and tragedy ensues.

As in the play, the prologue presents the basic outline of the story and the music adds its unique descriptive and suggestive element. At the start, the orchestra led by the brass depicts the raging conflict of the opposing families, but then we hear the love theme which will recur so affectingly at key moments later in the opera.

Roméo enters with his friends and we recognize his sensitive, almost timid unwillingness to arouse the hostility of his hosts, as contrasted with the brash behavior of Mercutio. What really matters in this scene is the vivacity of Juliette revealed in her famous Waltz Song and the ensuing duet when the lovers first meet. The French text of the duet has none of the incomparable grace of the sonnet Shakespeare gives them, but the music has its own charm and easily establishes the powerful attraction that draws them together. There is no suggestion of raging hormones in this music; it is a depiction of tentative exploration, of gradual dawning of completely new emotion. These two are little more than children and they are happily embarking on a voyage of discovery, completely oblivious of its final tragic ending.

The balcony scene begins with an orchestral prelude that evokes the lush warmth of the Italian night; the strings weave a delicious web of yearning that prepares us for Roméo’s apostrophe to the night and the stars. Juliette for him is the brilliant sun that puts the stars to shame. In this version we miss Shakespeare’s wonderful trope:

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

But the ardent lyricism of Roméo’s music makes up for it; small wonder that this is one of the arias that every tenor dreams of singing, and inevitably it brings down the house.

The love duet portrays the advance from their first meeting to a rapid, tempestuous passion that leads to the promise of marriage and the eager longing for the night to end and bring the longed for union of the following day. The scene ends as it began, with Roméo alone, imagining Juliette sleeping like a child and praying that the soft night breezes will whisper in her ear his goodnight kiss. He sings almost the whole text on a single note, while the orchestra weaves around him a web of rich chromatic sound, and with him fades to silence at his final words, “ce baiser” — this kiss.

This wedding before Friar Laurence is quickly dispatched and the quiet romanticism of the balcony scene gives way to the violent uproar of the duel between Roméo and Tybalt and the ensuing decree of Roméo’s exile. The librettists have combined several elements of the play: after Roméo kills Tybalt he does not flee as in Shakespeare but remains to hear the Duke’s decree of exile. The librettists insert here the cry Shakespeare wrote for the Nurse at discovering the seemingly dead Juliet —“Most lamentable day, most woeful day” — and it becomes the central text of the great concertato scene that follows: “Ah, jour de deuil, et d’horreur, et d’alarmes.” Roméo begins it solo and it is taken up by the whole ensemble with a powerful orchestral accompaniment. This is one of those concepts in opera that often baffle those accustomed only to spoken theater. How can a large group of singers declaim all at once and make sense of the various sentiments they want to convey? With this great music, the composer gives an outstanding example of the value of this dramatic convention. Everyone concerned laments what has happened: the cause of Roméo’s outburst is the Duke’s decree of Roméo’s exile; the blame lies not only with Roméo but with the two warring houses which have brought grief on the whole city. In a masterful stroke the composer has combined the personal tragedy of the two lovers with the terrible social effect of their families’ mutual hatred.

Two great scenes remain for the star-crossed lovers, the first in Juliette’s bed chamber. They sing in gentle tones of the sweetness of their wedding night. The music reprises the sounds of the balcony scene with all its lyrical charm. It is developed into a full throated cry for both until Roméo interrupts in alarm. In Shakespeare the scene begins with Juliet’s rebuke,

Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.

The librettists have turned this into words that admirably mimic the English and moves Gounod to one of his most inspired musical inventions. “Non, c’est de pas le jour…” Juliette begins, then repeats her plea to Roméo to stay; he relents and in his turn he sings Juliette’s impassioned “non, ce n’est pas le jour.” It is a melody of extraordinary dramatic power that combines passionate longing and a desperate denial of the reality that with the coming of day all the lovers’ hopes will be dashed by exile, death and the destructive power of hate that will separate them forever. The music at this point is a culmination of everything the opera wishes to convey; its importance will be confirmed in the final, tomb scene.

After Roméo leaves, Juliette has an aria, once routinely cut, now happily restored, which admirably depicts the development of her character. Friar Laurence enters and gives her the potion which will simulate her death. She sings, “Amour, ranime mon courage” — o love, strengthen my resolve. She is afraid, but willing to do anything that will rejoin her to Roméo. The music here is no longer that of the carefree girl singing her waltz song. Young still in years but grown into the stature of a woman matured by suffering, Juliette has become a tragic heroine whose voice reflects both the height and the depth of her final state.

As in the play, everything goes wrong and Roméo believes that his beloved is really dead. The tomb scene in the opera eliminates all characters except the two lovers. Gounod has concentrated in these final moments all his powers of melodic invention and deeply felt sympathy for these two people. The music suggests that the composer really loves these characters and feels the sadness of their cruel end. Every page of the music is suffused with dramatic cogency that plumbs the depths of longing and sorrow that all of us sense in the needless death of the young: longing to avert catastrophe and the clear understanding that we cannot.

Two moments stand out in the exchanges between the two in this final scene. Roméo’s words, “le rêve était trop beau,” our dream was all too fair, is clothed in music that achingly expresses the combination of hope and sorrow that have almost been the definition of the love of Romeo and Juliet. The other moment, even more poignant, is the recollection of that other parting when both of them desperately tried to stave off the pain of separation, “Non, non, ce n’est pas le jour” — it is not the day and the sound of the lark; it is the nightingale, protector of our love. That melody, so touching when first heard in the bedroom scene, returns now with a searing urgency that marks the composer not only as a canny dramatist but also as a deeply humane observer of lost love.

Critical judgments have their place. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an early play and has the flaws of a writer not yet at the top of his game; the reliance on chance to advance the plot, e.g., Friar Laurence’s letter going astray, is not a good dramatic device. But if the play is a flawed work it is nevertheless the work of a genius who would grow astronomically in very short order. Gounod was a conservative composer, bound by the strict rules of 19th-century romantic sensibility, yet he had a profound sense of the power of passionate love and found the musical means to give it glorious life.

At the end of the play the Duke laments that “never was a story of more woe / than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Both the master of words and the master of music have assured that the story will never be forgotten.

Basil De Pinto, who writes frequently for LA Opera, has also written for the opera companies of Washington, D.C., Seattle, Atlanta and Fort Worth.

Only three more performances of “Romeo et Juliette”!

Nino Machaidze as Juliette (photo: Robert Millard)

Sweet sorrow indeed…there are only three more chances to see the magical pairing of Nino Machaidze and Vittorio Grigolo in Gounod’s enchanting Romeo et Juliette…and one of those performances is nearly sold out! Click here for tickets. The next performance is Thursday, November 17 at 7:30pm. We’re ready for you!

The reviews are in!

Nino Machaidze as Juliette and Vittorio Grigolo as Romeo. (Photo: Robert Millard)

“Los Angeles Opera has done it again…a brand new dazzling dream couple for opera…[Vittorio Grigolo] was commanding vocally and theatrically…there is plenty of opportunity for passion, and Grigolo had a ready supply. He jumped up balconies, leaped around the stage and poured his heart out…[Nino Machaidze] was smoldering Sunday, and Grigolo never seemed to get enough of that either… She made her “Waltz Song,” the opera’s most famous number, sparkle. But a seductively dark poignancy suited her best.” Mark Swed, LA Times

“Vittorio Grigolo in his L.A. Opera debut is delivering an extravagant and yet utterly heartfelt Romeo that recalls the young John Barrymore…Machaidze’s steely soprano weaves nicely with Grigolo’s fine-grained tenor…she matches his emotionalism note for note.”
Robert Hofler, Variety

“Any performance of the opera rises or falls primarily on the qualities of the two lead singers. Both here are knockouts.” Lyle Zimskind, LAist
[Machaidze and Grigolo] “deliver two very exciting performances that alongside Judge’s tight, visually interesting production ensure that no one in the audience will be going home disappointed…an opportunity to see these two stars working together on a local stage should not be passed by.”

Brian Holt, Out West Arts

“It is perhaps several degrees more sensational than the first time…Vittorio Grigolo and Nino Machaidze, both of them – to put it mildly – [were] sensational in their parts. Machaidze sings gorgeously and makes a thoroughly believable heroine (and, yes, we all know Shakespeare’s Juliet was really 13 or something), while Grigolo seems born to play Roméo.” David Gregson, Opera West

“[Nino Machaidze's] talent is unsurpassed: charisma, beauty, comic ability, acting, gorgeous and memorable strong voice. She is the perfect Juliette…Vittorio Grigolo…has the vocal chops to keep up with Nino, as well as the looks and bravado on stage. This coupling is another compelling reason not to miss this production.” Georja Urmano & Gerald Everett Jones, LA Splash

“Vittorio Grigolo and Nino Machaidze [are] young novas who can galvanize stage action, sing to the heavens and look unspeakably gorgeous while they’re at it. Needless to say, these two wowed the opening night audience…For her part, the Georgian soprano’s cheek would shame the stars shining in the sky. Whether leaning down, yearningly, from her balcony or flying around the courtyard to rendez-vous with Romeo, this Juliette defined the smitten girl who would rather die than live without her lover…[Grigolo] is the real lyric-tenor thing, the possessor of a bright, full voice with rounded tone that can sound quite good in the French repertory.”
Donna Perlmutter, blogdowntown

“Romeo et Juliette” opens

Vittorio Grigolo and Nino Machaidze in "Romeo et Juliette." (Photo: Robert Millard)

One of our season’s most anticipated productions, Romeo et Juliette, has returned to our stage, running through November 26. Click here for tickets…they’re going quickly, so don’t miss out. Best availability is for Wednesday, November 9, at 7:30pm!

Handling Fees waived today!

Nino Machaidze as Juliette and Vittorio Grigolo as Romeo (Photo by Robert Millard)

Today only (Friday, November 4), we’ll waive your handling fees if you purchase tickets to the November 6 (Sunday) or the November 9 (Wednesday) performances of Roméo et Juliette. Just click here and enter PROMO CODE 18126, or call Audience Services at (213) 972-8001. This is a must-see production, and tickets are going fast. Don’t miss out!

Costume Shop Sale!

On Sunday, October 9, just in time for Halloween, LA Opera will clear out its overstuffed costume racks with its second ever costume sale: “Revenge of the LA Opera Costume Shop Sale!” Trick-or-treating connoisseurs looking to stand out in a crowd of Snookis, Charlie Sheens and Captain Americas will have the opportunity to snag one-of-a-kind items that have been seen on the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Prices range from $20 for individual accessories including masks, wigs, military items, plumed hats, belts and shoes, to $300 for complete costumes.

The sale will take place in the Costume Shop’s parking lot, 330 South Alameda Street, Los Angeles CA 90013. Street parking is available, and there will be secured pay parking in the Little Tokyo Galleria parking structure, directly across the street from the sale at 333 South Alameda.

The gates will open to the general public at 11am. Customers who have bought tickets to LA Opera’s November production of Roméo et Juliette can show their tickets at the gate for early entry beginning at 10am; each ticket shown will admit one person. The sale will continue until 4pm or until the stock is sold out (whichever comes first). Cash or credit cards will be accepted.

LA Opera On Air Begins July 7 on WFMT

LA Opera is collaborating with Classical KUSC to produce the sixth consecutive season of LA Opera on Air, a weekly broadcast series of performances recorded live at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Hosted by Duff Murphy, the series will feature all six operas from LA Opera’s 2011/12 season.

The series will syndicated throughout the United States and internationally on the WFMT Radio Network. Broadcast dates and times on the WFMT Radio Network vary in differing media markets; please visit WFMT for more information.

Broadcast Schedule
Eugene Onegin
WFMT: Saturday, July 7, 12pm CDT
Young and impassioned, Tatiana (soprano Oksana Dyka) hastily writes a love letter to the brooding aristocrat Onegin (baritone Dalibor Jenis). She unwittingly sets off an unstoppable series of events, leaving Onegin forever regretting the love he so casually spurned.

Così fan tutteWFMT: Saturday, July 14, 12pm CDT
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s delightfully comic battle of the sexes comes to life with ravishingly beautiful music and sparkling wit. The cast includes soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.  

Roméo et Juliette
WFMT: Saturday, July 21, 12pm CDT
Soprano Nino Machaidze and tenor Vittorio Grigolo star as the world’s most famous lovers.  

Simon Boccanegra
WFMT: Saturday, July 28, 12pm CDT
Plácido Domingo sings the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, a grand-scale study of power and treachery that finds an emotional center in the tender bond between father and daughter. 

Albert Herring
WFMT: Saturday, August 4, 12pm CDT
Benjamin Britten’s comedy takes place in the English countryside, where meek mama’s boy Albert (tenor Alek Shrader) reluctantly becomes his village’s first May King when no maidens of sufficient virtue can be found. Soprano Christine Brewer stars as the formidable Lady Billows.  

La Bohème
WFMT: Saturday, August 11, 12pm CDT
In this rebroadcast, a poet discovers true romance with a lovely, fragile seamstress among the evocative rooftops, cafés and garrets of Paris. Soprano Ailyn Pérez and tenor Stephen Costello, fast-rising young singers who are married in real life, star as Mimi and Rodolfo.  

LA Opera on Air is made possible by generous grants from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, spearheaded by the efforts of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.