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Romeo et Juliet – grand opera at its grandest

Ballet, flashing sword fights, tragic ending

Nicole Cabell as Juliet. A lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego. - Image by Karli Cadel
Nicole Cabell as Juliet. A lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego.

Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet opened at the San Diego Opera on Saturday, March 26, at the Civic Theatre in lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego. This production had it all, from a corps de ballet to flashing sword fights to tragic endings in a five-act package. This Romeo et Juliet production is grand opera at its grandest.

Gounod’s version of Shakespeare’s masterpiece assumes that the audience is familiar with the source material. There are four duets and a pair of arias for the principal couple. The two arias, "Je veux vivre" for Juliet and “Ah! lève-toi, soleil” for Romeo are deserving of their fame as is the act four duet from Juliet’s bedroom as the pair confirms their conjugal relations on the eve of Romeo’s exile. The third act has a famous chorus after the death of Tybalt.

Video:

Ô jour de deuil!

<em>Romeo et Juliette,</em> Charles Gounod. Bilbao Opera, 2011

Romeo et Juliette, Charles Gounod. Bilbao Opera, 2011

Presiding over the music was San Diego Opera’s principal conductor Yves Abel. Of French-Canadian descent, Abel has this opera in his wheelhouse and it was glorious. How accomplished is Maestro Abel in the French repertoire? According to his website, he is the founder of L'Opéra Francais de New York and was awarded the title Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government.

The vocal cast was, as in all opera productions, a mixed bag of up-and-coming singers and seasoned veterans of the opera stage. Of the up-and-coming singers, Simon Lim in the role of Friar Laurent was vocally spectacular. He was the best voice in the production with a bone-shaking resonance and consistent production from the top to the bottom of the role.

Video:

Simon Lim in La Favorite, Donizetti

Singing “Redoutez la fureur”

Singing “Redoutez la fureur”

It might not be accurate to call Pene Pati, our Romeo, a seasoned vet, but his career has certainly popped of late with impressive upcoming engagements. Vocally Pati was not my cup of tea except for the third act, which was his most virulent and exciting singing. For the rest of the role he frequently sang off the voice in a reinforced falsetto. The sound was pretty and inoffensive, there’s nothing worse than an offensive tenor, but ultimately I was unmoved by his performance —save the third act. I cannot remember ever hearing a singer perform the majority of a role in this manner. Now and then this approach is effective but it made me wonder if he can sing the role on the voice from start to finish.

Video:

Pene Pati

"Ah! lève toi soleil!" - Gounod

"Ah! lève toi soleil!" - Gounod

In the role of Juliet was Nicole Cabell who is an established singer. She won the prestigious BBC Singer of the World Competition in 2005 and has been on the world stage ever since. Her singing was well-matched to Pene Pati in that it was extremely beautiful but lacked drama except for the fourth act poison scene which was a riveting moment of opera.

All in all this production of Romeo et Juliet was a night at the opera full of beautiful scenery, costumes, dancing, and music.

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Nicole Cabell as Juliet. A lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego. - Image by Karli Cadel
Nicole Cabell as Juliet. A lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego.

Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet opened at the San Diego Opera on Saturday, March 26, at the Civic Theatre in lavish production proving that opera is still a reality in San Diego. This production had it all, from a corps de ballet to flashing sword fights to tragic endings in a five-act package. This Romeo et Juliet production is grand opera at its grandest.

Gounod’s version of Shakespeare’s masterpiece assumes that the audience is familiar with the source material. There are four duets and a pair of arias for the principal couple. The two arias, "Je veux vivre" for Juliet and “Ah! lève-toi, soleil” for Romeo are deserving of their fame as is the act four duet from Juliet’s bedroom as the pair confirms their conjugal relations on the eve of Romeo’s exile. The third act has a famous chorus after the death of Tybalt.

Video:

Ô jour de deuil!

<em>Romeo et Juliette,</em> Charles Gounod. Bilbao Opera, 2011

Romeo et Juliette, Charles Gounod. Bilbao Opera, 2011

Presiding over the music was San Diego Opera’s principal conductor Yves Abel. Of French-Canadian descent, Abel has this opera in his wheelhouse and it was glorious. How accomplished is Maestro Abel in the French repertoire? According to his website, he is the founder of L'Opéra Francais de New York and was awarded the title Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government.

The vocal cast was, as in all opera productions, a mixed bag of up-and-coming singers and seasoned veterans of the opera stage. Of the up-and-coming singers, Simon Lim in the role of Friar Laurent was vocally spectacular. He was the best voice in the production with a bone-shaking resonance and consistent production from the top to the bottom of the role.

Video:

Simon Lim in La Favorite, Donizetti

Singing “Redoutez la fureur”

Singing “Redoutez la fureur”

It might not be accurate to call Pene Pati, our Romeo, a seasoned vet, but his career has certainly popped of late with impressive upcoming engagements. Vocally Pati was not my cup of tea except for the third act, which was his most virulent and exciting singing. For the rest of the role he frequently sang off the voice in a reinforced falsetto. The sound was pretty and inoffensive, there’s nothing worse than an offensive tenor, but ultimately I was unmoved by his performance —save the third act. I cannot remember ever hearing a singer perform the majority of a role in this manner. Now and then this approach is effective but it made me wonder if he can sing the role on the voice from start to finish.

Video:

Pene Pati

"Ah! lève toi soleil!" - Gounod

"Ah! lève toi soleil!" - Gounod

In the role of Juliet was Nicole Cabell who is an established singer. She won the prestigious BBC Singer of the World Competition in 2005 and has been on the world stage ever since. Her singing was well-matched to Pene Pati in that it was extremely beautiful but lacked drama except for the fourth act poison scene which was a riveting moment of opera.

All in all this production of Romeo et Juliet was a night at the opera full of beautiful scenery, costumes, dancing, and music.

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