Flawless cast offers dramatic intensity
Love and sensuality are the basis for both Shakespeare's play and Gounod's opera "Roméo et Juliette." But the story reaches its greatness when hate, sorrow and regret are there to impede love. The opera's strength, therefore, is the alternation between an intimate moment and a sword fight, a solo coloratura aria and a stage full of angry men. If well-delivered, its poignancy can still strike hard today. And Friday it happened.
'Roméo et Juliette'
On stage: 4 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $29 to $120
The cast is perfectly balanced, and that is rule No. 1 for this opera. Audrey Elizabeth Luna and George Dyer in the title roles work together in ideal harmony in four duets. Vocally, their textures, color and strength match without flaw. On stage, their chemistry is one of a kind. Especially moving is their fourth-act duet.
Their dramatic intensity works even better thanks to the rest of the cast. A collection of solid voices and actors make this production excel. With paradoxical harmony, the Capulet and Montague men display vocal and dramatic testosterone with no slips. The chorus is at its best, balancing vocals while dancing and moving around the stage with ease.
The five-act opera is also nicely organized in three sections. The pace is never dull, and the stage design frames the drama with taste, yet gives adequate room to the singers.
From the prologue, in which all characters are grouped on stage, we are given a taste of the artistic balance of the production. The players summarize the tragedy that will be enacted, as they do in the Shakespearean play. But in the opera, after the prologue they enter the story as protagonists. It was Gounod's brilliant idea, but director Karen Tiller's merit to realize it on stage so smoothly.
The first-act dance at the Capulet residence is choreographed with taste by Teddy Kern, and Helen E. Rodgers' elegant costumes have a stunning effect. Capulets and Montagues are differentiated by color, while from left to right all the hues make a suggestive palette.
Right away we also hear the incredible voice of soprano Luna. As soon as Juliette gets on stage she sings a difficult coloratura aria, and nothing seems to stop her. Her grace and determination, combined with terrific vocal skills make her the perfect Juliette. Her voice was radiant.
Athletic, strong and sensual, Dyer also is perfect as Roméo. His high notes have a unique clarity and when singing soft passages in the couple's intimate moments, his phrasing is delicate. His second-act cavatine in the balcony scene could easily seduce even a 21st-century teenager.
And then the men. I hated to see Tybalt die. Tenor Adam Flowers is so good that you want him there longer. Baritone Etienne Dupuis as Roméo's friend Mercutio impresses with his "Queen Mab" aria, showing the perfect voice for the role. The men's sword fight, choreographed by Tony Pisculli, looks frighteningly real.
Bass-baritone John Marcus Bindel gives the necessary flavor to Friar Laurence with his acting skills and beautiful, full sound. Bass-baritone John Mount is in top shape as the Duke, in one of his best performances.
Mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, as courageous but overconfident page Stephano, also gives a terrific performance in the third act, with her (his) provoking "turtle-dove" song.
I cannot imagine a better production to conclude the Hawaii Opera Theatre season. This is the high-quality type of performance that no one -- opera lover or not -- should miss.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.