GOUNOD: RomÈo et Juliette

First performance: 27 April 1867 at ThȂtre Lyrique, Paris.

Principal characters:

Juliette [Juliet] Soprano
RomÈo [Romeo] son of Montaigu [Montague] Tenor
FrËre Laurent [Friar Laurence] Bass
Mercutio friend to Romeo Baritone
StÈphano page to Romeo Soprano
Capulet Bass
Tybalt, nephew of Lady Capulet Tenor
Gertrude, nurse to Juliet Mezzo-Soprano
The Duke Bass
Paris, a young count Baritone
GrÈgorio [Gregory] servant to Capulet Baritone
Benvolio nephew of Montague Tenor
FrËre Jean [Friar John] Bass

Time and Place: Renaissance Verona


Act I

After a stormy orchestral introduction, depicting the hostility which
reigns between the Capulet and the Montaigu, the curtain rises on a declaimed choral
prologue summarizing the tragedy. Act I. A masked ball in the palace of the Capulet. The
guests sing the pleasures which await them this evening (introduction: “L’heure
s’envole”). Young noble P‚ris is amazed at the magnificence of the ball, but Tybalt,
nephew of Capulet, assures him that he will forget this magnificence, when he sees the
magnificent Juliette, daughter of Capulet. When Capulet leads his daughter in the room,
she becomes indeed the centre of attention. Capulet invites cheerfully the guests to
dance in the nearby rooms and is delighted to leave P‚ris to escort Juliette. When the
stage is empty, masked RomÈo Montaigu and his friends Mercutio and Benvolio come out of
their hiding place. Due to their disguise, they were able to enter the rival house
without being recognized. RomÈo has now reserves on their outing and wishes to leave. He
explains that he recently had a dream that filled him with somber premonitions as to
their adventure. Mercutio frivolously brushes aside his premonitions, saying they are
the work of the queen Mab (ballad of the queen Mab: “Mab, la reine des mensonges”).
RomÈo is comforted by this ballad, but suddenly sees Juliette through an open door. He
falls in love with her in an instant. Enchanted, RomÈo is pushed outside by his friends
as Juliette enters, with her nanny, Gertrude. Gertrude sings P‚ris’s praises to her, as
a future husband. Juliette, for her part, protests her lack of interest for this
marriage (ariette: “Je veux vivre”). The nanny goes away and, while Juliette gets ready
to return to the dance, RomÈo comes out of a corner of the room. After some words, they
realize that their destinies are bound (madrigal: “Ange adorable!”). In the exchange
which follows, RomÈo discovers that he fell in love with a Capulet. Although RomÈo has
his mask back on, Tybalt manages to identify him. After RomÈo’s hasty departure, Tybalt
reveals to Juliette that she spoke with a hated Montaigu. The guests return in the
centre of the scene: RomÈo and his friends are among them. Mercutio thinks that they
were noticed and the Montaigu operate a hasty retreat. Capulet does not authorize Tybalt
to follow them and encourages his guests to pursue festivities.

Act II

The garden of Capulet at night. To the left, the window and
Juliette’s balcony. RomÈo left his friends and came back like a thief in the garden of
the Capulet. He shouts out to Juliette as to a rising sun (cavatina: “Ah! LËve-toi,
soleil”). Shortly after, she appears on the balcony and RomÈo reveals his presence. She
asks him for a declaration of love and allegiance which he gives her enthusiastically.
Their soft words are for a moment interrupted by GrÈgorio and other servants of the
Capulet, who roam the garden in search of a page of Montaigu seen in the area (scene and
choir: “Personne! Le page aura fui”). When peace returns, RomÈo springs out of his
hiding place (duet: “O nuit divine”). Juliette confirms that she is ready to marry him
at the time of his choice and RomÈo repeats his oath. They are again interrupted, this
time by Gertrude, who calls Juliette in the house. The two lovers part reluctantly.


Brother Laurent’s cell. At dawn. In the wings, a monks’ choir can be
heard. Brother Laurent enters with a basket filled with plants and flowers, which he is
going to use to make secret potions. He sings the miracles of nature (choir and
cavatina: “Breceau de tous les Ítres”). RomÈo rides up and tells him about his love for
Juliette Capulet. Juliette follows him soon with Gertrude. The two lovers ask brother
Laurent to unite them. Convinced of the force of their affection, he performs the
ceremony (trio and quartet: “Dieu qui fis l’homme ‡ ton image”). A street in front of
the house of Capulet. RomÈo’s page, StÈphano, is mocking the Capulet with a song
speaking about a white dove prisoner in a nest of vultures (song: “Que fais-tu, blanche
tourterelle?”). This scene attracts GrÈgorio and other servants of the Capulet outside
(finale: “Ah! Voici nos gens!”). StÈphano resumes at once the tune of his song in their
presence, and challenges GrÈgorio to a duel. Mercutio is indignant to see GrÈgorio fight
a duel with a simple child. Tybalt warns Mercutio to pay attention to his words, and
they also get involved in a duel. When RomÈo arrives, Tybalt turns around at once to
face him. RomÈo keeps his head and asks Tybalt to forget the days of hatred between the
two families. It is Mercutio who decides to defend RomÈo’s honor. He resumes the duel
with Tybalt, and is wounded when RomÈo throws himself between the two duellists. RomÈo,
suddenly in anger, tries to obtain vengeance; he fights with Tybalt and gives him a
mortal blow. A brass band and a marching troop announce the arrival of Duke. The
partisans of both houses shout for justice and, having learnt what happened, the Duke
exiles RomÈo away from VÈrona. Before the drop of the curtain, the members of the two
houses renew their resentful curses.

Act IV

Juliette’s room in the early hours. Juliette forgives RomÈo for
killing one of her relatives (duet: “Va! Je t’ai pardonnÈ”). They sing both their love
during the wedding night. RomÈo suddenly loosens his embrace when he hears the lark
announcing the day. Juliette refuses at first to believe it, but she then becomes aware
of reality. They know they have to part before being discovered. After the departure of
RomÈo, Capulet, Gertrude and brother Laurent enter the room (quartet: “Juliette! Ah, le
ciel soit louÈ!”). Capulet announces to Juliette that the last wish of Tybalt was to see
Juliette marrying P‚ris, and that this marriage is already arranged. Juliette is in
despair. When her father leaves her room, she says to brother Laurent that she would
prefer to die rather than to marry P‚ris. He suggests a trick by which she will be able
to escape with RomÈo. She should drink a narcotic which will give her the appearance of
death. Capulet will transport the body to the family grave, where RomÈo will find her.
Juliette accepts this plan. She appeals to all her courage (air: “Dieu! Quel frisson
court dans les veines!”). A vision of the bloodstained Tybalt makes her hesitate, but
she empties finally the phial. A magnificent room at the Capulet’s. Juliette enters to
the sound of a wedding march . The guests present her their best wishes and offer her
wedding presents, but as Capulet takes her arm to lead her into the chapel, she
collapses. In the general horror, Capulet exclaims that his daughter has died.

Act V

A subterranean crypt at the Capulet’s. Juliette is laying on a grave.
Brother Laurent learns from another monk, brother Jean, that RomÈo did not receive the
letter explaining the trick to him, because his page was attacked. Brother Laurent asks
Jean to find another messenger. After an instrumental interlude intended to depict
Juliette’s state, RomÈo appears. Believing Juliette dead ; he drinks the poison he
carried with him. At that moment, she wakes up and they sing their love. RomÈo tells her
that he has just absorbed a fatal poison. While he weakens, Juliette reveals a dagger
hidden in her clothes and stabs herself. In a monumental final effort, RomÈo and
Juliette ask for divine leniency before dying.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description=Charles FranÁois Gounod
first_audio_name=Charles FranÁois Gounod: RomÈo et Juliette
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second_audio_name=Charles FranÁois Gounod: RomÈo et Juliette
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product_title=Charles FranÁois Gounod: RomÈo et Juliette
product_by=Franco Corelli, Gianna D’Angelo, Agostino Ferrin, Peter Gottlieb, Nancy Williams, Mauro Lampi, Ruth Carron, Benjamin Rayson, Louis Picciardo, William Beck,Louis Sgarro, Philadelphia Opera, Anton Guadagno (cond.)
Live, 14 April 1964