RomÈo et Juliette by Arizona Opera

The opera had its
world premiËre at the ThÈ‚tre Lyrique ImpÈrial du Ch‚telet in Paris on April
27, 1867. It was Gounod’s biggest hit after Faust, which was first
seen in 1859, and it was sorely needed. Faust had been performed 300 times
since its premiere, but his next operatic compositions: Philemon et Baucis,
La Colombe
and Mireille, were nowhere near as successful.

After its Paris opening,†RomÈo†was seen in Italian at Covent Garden
in London on July 11, 1867 and in French at the Academy of Music in New York on
November 15 of that year. The opera was originally thought to be most notable
for its exquisitely constructed duets and for Juliette’s first act waltz song,
‘Je veux vivre’. Since then, however, her dramatic Poison Aria ‘Amour ranime
mon courage,’ which was sometimes omitted in earlier performances, has become
one of the work’s centerpieces.†

On November 16, 2012, Arizona Opera presented RomÈo et Juliette at
Phoenix’s Symphony Hall in a mostly traditional production by Candace Evans.
She told the story in an easily understandable manner that brought out the
personalities of the work’s many characters. The one controversial aspect of
Evans’ production was her use of narrators to present some of Shakespeare’s
original lines. They spoke over the orchestral music during the overture and
the interludes. Fight director Andrea Robertson had the young men dueling quite
realistically. The fact that every move was carefully choreographed was never
evident. The scenery, originally designed by R. Keith Brumley for Lyric Opera
of Kansas City, was dark and colorless, but functional. Corinna Rose Bohren’s
costumes, fashioned after the work of Peter J. Hall, added the necessary color
to the stage picture. Douglas Provost’s lighting design, too, served to add
some spice to the stage picture.

It was the inspired conducting of James Meena that held this production
together. His tempi were taught but he always allowed the singers any leeway
they needed. Zach Borichevsky and Corinne Winters, a couple in real life, sang
RomÈo and Juliette most convincingly. Tall and slim with an exciting sound to
his tenor voice, Borichevsky was perfect for his part, while Winters, a petite
Juliette, had both the lustrous vocal timbre for the Waltz Song and the bold
dramatic colors for the Poison Aria.†† Both these singers can act, too, and
that added measurably to this performance. Borichevsky sang a small part in
Richard Strauss’ Arabella last summer in Santa Fe but even that few
minutes onstage were enough to alert the audience to his significant talent.

Jamie Offenbach was a stentorian and commanding pater familias as Capulet
and David Adam Moore sang his technically difficult Queen Mab Aria with
pizzazz. Contralto Meredith Arwady is a talented comedian and her scenes
afforded considerable relief to the otherwise unrelenting tragedy of the story.
Singing the dual roles of FrËre Laurent and the Duke of Verona was the
sumptuous-voiced Jordan Bisch who created believable characters in both

In her portrayal of StÈphano, resident artist Laura Wilde sang her aria with
robust tones that could have had a bit more dynamic variation. David Margulis
and Thomas Cannon, also members of the company’s young artist program, were
thoroughly committed to their roles of Benvolio and GrÈgorio. Henri Venanzi’s
chorus is always a delight and this performance was no exception. They French
was good and so was their musical performance. The staging had them sometimes
standing as a block, but when they did move they were individual family members
and townspeople. This was a well though out production that gave the Arizona
audience a chance to appreciate some fine new singers.†

Maria Nockin

Cast and Production

RomÈo: Zach Borichevsky; Juliette: Corinne Winters; Capulet: Jamie Offenbach;
Mercutio: David Adam Moore; FrËre Laurent and The Duke of Verona: Jordan Bisch;
Gertrude: Meredith Arwady; StÈphano: Laura Wilde; Benvolio David Margulis;
GrÈgorio Thomas Cannon; Narrators: Sterling Beeaff, Peter Oldak, Natalie
Sanchez; Conductor: James Meena; Director: Candace Evans; Chorus Master: Henri
Venanzi; Fight Director: Andrea Robertson; Scenic Designer: R. Keith Brumley;
Costume Designer: Corinna Rose Bohren; Lighting Designer: Douglas Provost.
Arizona Opera at Phoenix Symphony Hall November 17, 2012.

image_description=Zach Borichevsky as RomÈo and Corinne Winters as Juliette [Photo courtesy of Arizona Opera]
product_title=RomÈo et Juliette by Arizona Opera
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: Zach Borichevsky as RomÈo and Corinne Winters as Juliette [Photo courtesy of Arizona Opera]