Queen's Jubilee Gala

Paganini's Progeny /
Art of Violin

Little Women

Copland's America
with Jonathan Sheffer and the Eos Orchestra

Don Giovanni Unmasked
with Dmitri Hvorostovsky

3 Mo' Tenors

Joshua Bell in
West Side Story Suite

MP3 Station



sign up for:


"GREAT 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.

The 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 thing.

Why don't you see for yourself and enjoy the MUSIC in the comfort of home -
telecast on 13 WNET/PBS July 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.]

Photos: © 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.

Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna's ROMEO et JULIETTE,
with Michel Plasson, cond.

Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna's
CD soundtrack of their recent opera-film

Design and Original Content: FanFaire LLC
© 1997-2006. All rights reserved.