Vancouver Opera Presents Romeo et Juliette, Nov 26-Dec 3

Photo Credit: LA Opera

Fresh on the heels of the West Side Story, the Vancouver Opera is set to present another classic about ill-fated lovers this week: Romeo et Juliette.

Based on the 1867 opera of the Shakespeare play by French composer Charles Gounod, the performance features lush period costumes, grand set pieces and the backing of the 60-piece Vancouver Opera Orchestra, not to mention some outstanding singers.

Vancouver native Simone Osborne is playing Juliette in her debut role.  The clear voiced soprano was recently praised by the National Post, which declared simply, “She’s going to be a big star.”  Romeo is played by magnetic Canadian tenor Gordon Gietz, described as energetic, passionate, sexy and “irresistibly young” by reviewers.

The opera premiers on Saturday, Nov. 26, with just three additional performances on Tuesday, Nov. 29, Thursday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 3.  All performances are at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and begin at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at the Vancouver Opera website.

Now, true fans of Shakespeare should know that Gounod’s opera diverges from the Bard in one significant way.  Most of the opera is faithful to the original, tracing the star-crossed lovers as they fall deeper – and more hopelessly – in love while their families feud away.   But, in Shakespeare’s play, Romeo dies before Juliet stirs from her apothecary slumber.  In the opera, however, Juliette regains consciousness just in time to sing one final duet with the dying Romeo.

Among the most famous elements of Gounod’s opera, which was first performed in Paris in 1867, are Romeo and Juliet’s duets, as well as the famous “Je veux vivre” waltz, which you may have heard before.  Here’s a little clip from YouTube:

Not surprising given the play’s universal appeal, Romeo and Juliet has been made into no fewer than 23 musicals over the years (24 if you count West Side Story, which replaces the Montagues and Capulets with the Jets and the Sharks).  It’s also apparently the most filmed play of all time, with Zefferelli’s 1968 version (famous for the nude wedding-night scene) and DiCaprio’s 1996 update among the more familiar remakes.


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