Music by Charles Gounod
Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
Choreography by Chase Brock
Stage Direction by Bartlett Sher
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
“Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet” in about 1595 and Charles Gounod adapted it into an opera in 1867, but for his debut at the Salzburg Festival, director Bartlett Sher (whose “South Pacific” revival was the major Broadway event of the past season) sets the work in the late 18th century. No reason for the update is stated, but it certainly offers four-time Tony winner Catherine Zuber the opportunity for a dazzling, non-stop parade of richly detailed period costumes.
Salzburg’s Felsenreitschule features an inordinately wide and very shallow playing area surrounded by three tiers of arches cut into the side of a mountain several centuries ago – recognized by most people today as the site of the song contest in the film of “The Sound of Music.”
Sher has maximized the venue’s potential by using the entire width of the stage as well as placing characters in the arches (the lovers are first glimpsed running on different levels in opposite directions) and in the arena-style auditorium. Page boy Stephano (mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf in a “trouser role”) enters from the top of the hall, runs down an aisle and begins his aria balanced on the balustrade separating the really expensive seats from the obscenely expensive ones.
Fortunately, the cast is young – Nino Machiadze (Juliette) is only 25, and Rolando Villazon (Romeo) is practically the senior member at 36 – deeply committed, and has the energy to keep Sher’s well-thought-out action moving, which is no small feat with a five-act French grand opera.”
“Broadway director Bartlett Sher and his team succeed in evoking Shakespeare’s Verona with a few evocative props, many fine costumes and much plot-driven action.”