A Perfect Performance
Dr. John W. Rippon | Florida | 03/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The majority of previous reviewers have pronounced this recording of Romeo et Juliette to be an excellent performance of an old fashioned opera done in an old fashioned way. They emphasize the great performances of the cast and the inspired conducting of Charle Makarras. I find their judgement accurate and only wish to confirm their verdict. I would add that to me it is one of the most satisfying of any recorded performance in my personal collection of over 300 opera DVDs. What is more, after several run throughs over a period of several months I think it to be that rarest of the rare: a perfect performance.
The characterization of Robert Alagna is as close to the adolescent youth complete with impish bravado and raging hormones as can be found anywhere. I have seen and heard Alagna in live and recorded performances in many roles and have not been a fan, but he excels here. This is a 1996 project and the sweet youthful voice is not apperant in his present day singing of which I am aware. The Juliette of Leontina Vadova is girlish insouciance that develops into deep infatuation and perhaps love. Vadova is just right for the part. She's an innocent country girl, a little plump, not an elegant princess and she acts it all very well. The four love duets with Alagna are electric music making. They play off each other very well.
In my youth I was unmoved by most French opera except for Berlioz "Les Troyens". Faust had it's moments, Massenet I found cloying but then I heard Mirella Freni and Franco Corelli in Romeo et Juliette and fell in love. I've seen and heard many productions of this opera since including the Villazon and Machaidze but nothing has come near to perfection as this present one.
I believe there is a reason for this. One can go to a local amateur performance of Brahms second symphony as I did recently and still get something out of it. It is because it is great music. Romeo et Juliette is a B list opera at best and therefore requires the magic of the interaction of just the right players in all parts, the right staging and the right conducting to bring life to a less than viable score. Gounod wrote a dozen operas of which only two survive today. One, Faust (1859) is the most played opera in the history of opera (The Metropolitan Opera of New York was nicknamed the Faustspielhaus at one time). But even it had to be reworked many times before it became popular. Romeo et Juliette (1867) was the only immediate success (a succes fou) he had with any opera though he wrote three more. In his last 12 years he wrote nothing. Yet Romeo et Juliette is loved by all. Even the great Verdi recalls the Act 4 duet of Romeo et Juliette in the beginning of the Act 1 duet in his magnificent Otello. Romeo et Juliette is weak in many places such as the pedantic music of Frere Laurent and much is open to parody, however in places the composer reaches heights he never before or after attained."
Tom Hammond | martin South Dakota United States | 04/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this romeo and juliet production was wonderful. as the audience will applaud their approval of the singers and music. and the music...gounod's music is quite lovely throughout. at times the soprano was barely audible but did not distract from the role. roberto alagna is very good here. i come to appreciate him more and more....tom hammond"
A Romeo Unlikely to be Bettered
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 01/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was very surprised to read some of the negative comments on this DVD. Vaduva might not be my first choice (it wouldn't be Netrebko)but her voice and physicality suggest the youth and sensitivity one would expect in a Juliette. Subsequent recordings of Vaduva available at one time on CD, a Boheme and an aria collection were disappointing. The Boheme was in particular a disappointment as it has a very starry cast--Vaduva excepted. But I can't criticize her Juliette. Nor the rest of the cast, notably Alagna. What a pleasure to hear him sing French. Surely he will offer us a Faust. But in the meantime I recomment his Romeo the score of which I think is superior to Faust. Interestingly enough the worst music of the Berlioz "drammatic symphony" is the music he wrote the Frere Laurence; the same can be said of Gounod's attempt; even with an artist with the distinction of Robert Lloyd he is unable to rise above the banal, but the fault is Gounod's, not Lloyd's. Highly recommended."