Romeo and Juliet is one of the most enduring love stories in the English language, to the point where you’d be hard-pressed to find a man on the street who hasn’t heard of the play, but few sources tell the story of star-crossed lovers quite as grandly or beautifully as Goudon in his French-language opera. Given a polished and glowing presentation by Austin Opera, Romeo and Juliet is a grandiose, gallant, and beautifully staged telling of Shakespeare’s most well-known tale
The opera opens with a surprising bit of action, which will be the first of many intervening styles and tones throughout the piece. There are moments for guffaws, tears, and gasps as the play unfolds, and the show never loses sight of its emotional heart. Indeed, every decision made it towards bringing out the most emotion from each scene, and the clear, soaring voices of all the actors involve help to truly create a sonic landscape that sweeps the audience away.
One of the delightful characteristics of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” is that it gives Juliet some time to shine, and here our Juliet gleams brightly thanks to the performance by Joyce El-Khoury. El-Khourny plays the role as a kind of celebration of the joys of youth, full of awkwardness and innocence, but also bursting with youthful exuberance, giving her scenes a vibrancy and honesty that make them true highlights, in particular her joyful song after the grad fete in Act I.
We mustn’t forget the large role played by Stephen Costello’s Romeo, whose brave and dashing rendition is tempered nicely with moments of real pathos. With its extended final scenes, this opera can become a drag in the wrong hands, but Costello’s Romeo keeps the scenes moving well thanks to his very rich voice and sensitive performance. His chemistry with El-Khoury is undeniable, as the couple bring real light to several scenes, in particular the play’s famous balcony scene, where it’s hard not to fall in love with the couple yourself.
Romance and Daring are on fine display in this rendition of Gounod’s famous opera, with skilled actors bringing real chemistry to the main roles, and the supporting cast doing their part to keep the action fun and thrilling. All this is underscored wonderfully by the orchestra, led with a deft hand by long-time conductor Richard Buckley. It’s the perfect play for getting you into the romantic spirit, just in time for Valentine’s Day, and the perfect treat for a young couple in love.
Austin Opera’s production of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” runs roughly 3 hours, and is playing through February 1st, 2015 at the Long Center. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit Austin Opera’s website at austinopera.org
Photo Courtesy of Lynn Lane Photography