Strange Love ó The Metís weird new production bleeds the delicate chemistry out of RomÈo et Juliette

romeo_juliet_met_small.jpg(Photo: Ken Howard / The Metropolitan Opera)
By Peter G. Davis [, 5 December 2005]
According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, there are more than 380 vocal theater works based on Shakespeareís plays, but only a handful have any musical or dramatic worth. That seems rather severe, especially since Groveís short list of worthy examples omits Gounodís RomÈo et Juliette, now playing at the Metropolitan in a new production. Have we lost RomÈo forever? Superior critics tend to get snippy when writing about this most fragrantly delicate of French romantic operas, and the refined vocal style the roles require, and which singers once cultivated as a matter of course, is no longer a priority. There are still very sound musical reasons why the work was so hugely popular in its day, particularly in New York during the 1890s when RomÈo epitomized Met glamour at its most opulent and the company could engage casts that were truly spectacular.