PERFORMANCES" transposes Charles Gounod's vision of Shakespeare's
star-crossed lovers from the operatic stage to a natural setting that
captures both the lyrical beauty and grim tragedy of
ROMEO AND JULIET
Opera's "golden couple," ANGELA GHEORGHIU
and ROBERTO ALAGNA, star in this abridged,
made-for-television opera-on-film, shot entirely on location in and around
a 13th-century Czech castle. The 5-act opera is condensed into a 90-minute
film of highlights built around Gounod's sumptuous arias and love duets,
with the chorus (of the nobles and ladies of Verona) providing the backdrop
for the storyline and the lovers, separately or together, almost always
within the perimeter of the camera lens.
singers chosen for this screen version of the opera- Alagna, the French-Sicilian
tenor, and the Romanian soprano Gheorghiu, are not only among the celebrated
voices of the new generation of opera singers; they are also a youthful
couple, married to each other in real-life, and thus able to lend authenticity
to the characterization of the ill-fated lovers as perhaps no others can.
Indeed, they regale with their voices, Alagna his radiant tenor and Gheorghiu
her luscious soprano, and they pass with flying colors the scrutiny of
the close-up lens, clearly as comfortable in front of the camera as they
are on the operatic stage. *
Purists and opera buffs may argue that presenting the story of Romeo
and Juliet as a skillfully filmed sequence of showcase arias and duets,
with the orchestra somehow reduced to a minor player, imparts a music-video-like
quality to the work, thereby altering the musical and dramatic impact
of the opera. Thus they may wince at this film adaptation of a favorite
opera as they likely did not at another "Great Performances"
adaptation - Don Giovanni Unmasked, which was based on an inventive
concept for the stage that not only preserved the music-theater nature
of opera but also exercised the viewer's imagination. To be sure, there
is some of the latter in this film, e.g, the play of contrasts BETWEEN
the joyful, colorful lyricism that abounds both in Gounod's music and
in the idyllic setting of lake and verdant woods AND the sense of imminent
tragedy conveyed by the stark, empty interior of the castle and the darkly
gray garb and demeanor of the feuding Verona clansmen.
But the film may just be what it takes to bring opera and great music
to a wider audience, MTV generation included, who may sooner or later
clamor for the "real thing." And that can only be a very good
Why don't you see for yourself and enjoy the MUSIC in the comfort of home
1, 2002 at
10:00 pm ET in the New York area (elsewhere, check PBS local listings).
- ©JB/FanFaire 2002
[A coproduction of Iambic Productions, Ltd. and Thirteen/WNET
NY; produced by Chris Hunt, directed by Barbara Willis Sweete. Anton Guadagno
conducts the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.]
© Milos Schmiedberger, Courtesy WNET13
*This Romeo and Juliet is not the couple's only opera-on-film.
They are also the stars in a recent film version of another popular opera,
Puccini's Tosca, the soundtrack of which is available as a beautifully
bound book-CD on the EMI Classics label - with Angela Gheorghiu as Floria
Tosca, Roberto Alagna as Mario Cavaradossi, Ruccero Raimondi as the villain
Scarpia, and Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.