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David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2008

It would be difficult to imagine a more ravishingly beautiful performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette than we have on this DVD from London’s Royal Opera House.

Directed by Nicolas Joel, it has the underlying feel of a ballet, with movements around the stage so perfectly choreographed. Its realistic set design and costume take us back to Verona in the 14th century, the first act masked ball opening the performance in a riot of colour. From there they become more muted so as not to detract from the unfolding of the fateful story. Maybe more action could have been devised for the big fight scene, the death of Tybalt, Mercutio seeming to come from a squabble rather than a bitter feud. That apart, the action is perfectly paced and the cast could not have been better chosen. From a visual aspect where age relationships look totally realistic, and with the good looks of Roberto Alagna and Leontina Vaduva as Romeo and Juliet, the story takes on an added credibility. Unstinting in the use of his voice, Alagna pours out his passion, the scene on their parting so deeply touching. For Vaduva it is a complete triumph: not only is she vocally ideal for the impetuous young teenager, but she could surely also make a career as an actress. The pure anguish when she realises that Romeo has taken poison thinking Juliet was dead, is dramatic acting of the highest order. Much of the remaining cast is taken from Royal Opera stalwarts, with Sarah Walker as a fulsome Gertrude, and Peter Sidhom an uncommonly fine Capulet. I must also mention the resonant Frère Laurent of Robert Lloyd and Anna Maria Panzarella, who makes the most from her brief appearance as Stephano. Charles Mackerras conducts, and in his hands the singers are allowed time to shape phrases while still pushed along so that the music never sags. The film, originally made for the British Broadcasting Corporation, has the much experienced Brian Large as Director, his use of much close-up camera work being in keeping with the opera’s many intimate moments. Certainly a DVD that no opera enthusiast can afford to miss, but why do Opus Arte skimp on their booklets that lack anything about the performers?

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