Charles Gounod: Romeo et Juliette - Villazon/Machaidze
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The sensational hit of Salzburg's 2008 festival season arrives on DVD! Starring tenor Rolando Villazón in a stunning performance, this was the must have ticket of the season. Soprano Nino Machaidze, only 25 years old, burst upon the Salzburg stage with an emotionally vulnerable and vocally spectacular performance. With movie star good looks and a large, warm voice, Machaidze wowed the press and audiences alike. Tony Award winner (South Pacific) Bartlett Sher directs this production of Gounod's classic opera. With sets by Michael Yeargan and costumes by Catherine Zuber, the visually vibrant production is sure to become the benchmark. Bonus materials includes "Salzburg Impressions--Behind the Scenes of Roméo et Juliette," "Love and Death in Verona" and Villazón giving an introduction to the opera.
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The acting is better than I'm seeing lately in many 5 star, top of the line, big name productions.
The singing is in French but done "Italian Style"? Funny, I have a little coffee business and we sell French Roast, Italian Style. It's a big seller (our best) so I wouldn't be too critical of that! The singing is wonderful. The cast sings their hearts out. I love that feeling when I finish watching a DVD that makes me wish I could personally applaud the cast. There are great productions and there are good productions where the cast connects with the audience and delivers an authentic opera experience. Opera was entertainment for the masses---think about vendors hawking food during an opera. These operas, romances, good guys vs bad guys, sword fights, evil priests, pokes at the nobility---these are great fun. This is the sort of opera that gives us the flavor of an 18th century experience.
It's a ball! I wish everyone could see this and enjoy the beautiful sounds of Bel Canto, the fun of a good story done well, and a cast that wants to deliver a good time.
Loosen your tie and enjoy this opera.
The Prologue captures immediate attention, set against a pantomime which proposes a reason for the long-standing Montague-Capulet feud. The updating to the 18th century works well, as this was still an era when marriages of the nobility were arranged, and conflict settled by the sword. The sets are minimal but very effective, and the orchestra really lights up the score.
As Nino Machaidze replaced Anna Netrebko who was on maternity leave, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn. However I believe that each artist should be assessed on his or her own performance, not someone else's. Each vocal instrument is unique, and each artist has something different to contribute to a role, both vocally and dramatically. I think Nino Machaidze is a beautiful Juliette. She reminds me of an unfolding flower, as the carefree girl unlocks her inner strength - and blossoms, petal by petal, into a nurturing woman. Her singing is excellent, fresh and youthful - and her on-stage chemistry with Rolando Villazón just sparkles.
Rolando Villazón's Romeo captures all the joyous ardour of first love. As always, his magnificent singing and character portrayal unleashes every emotion with heart-wrenching realism. Who could resist his superlative "Ah! Leve Toi Soleil"? The balcony and wedding night scenes are absolute highlights, filled with a passion that is tempered with tenderness and wonder. And he really does drink the whole bottle of poison (What was that horrible-looking green stuff ?!?)
I have to mention Cora Burggraaf who is vocally and dramatically brilliant in the cameo role of Stephano, both in the street scene and its disastrous aftermath.
When staging this opera, there are so many directorial options for the final scene - should Romeo and Juliette die in each others' arms - should they achieve their final kiss - or should death overtake them as they reach for each other in vain? You will have to judge for yourself - but this particular ending seemed to me the most fitting of any I have seen.
I think this is Gounod's most beautiful operatic work, and this recorded performance deserves a special place in the collection of every opera lover.