Tuesday, August 8, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

The Glimmerglass Festival on the shore of Otsego Lake in upstate New York is at it again with its wonderful productions of operas in an idyllic setting. In its classic format, the Festival offers five productions this summer, namely La Boheme, Candide, Rinaldo and  The Rip Van Winkles, a new opera commissioned by the Festival. An Evening With Anthony Roth Costanzo and Love & War, a program of Cladio Monteverdi madrigals are two bonus performances.

Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet gets a superb production, directed by Simon Godwin and conducted by Joseph Colaneri. It is a modern-dress production, beautifully designed and judiciously directed with attention to detail with superb playing by the Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra.

Librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré were faithful to Shakespeare’s text subject to making cuts to allow the opera to be performed in less than three hours with one intermission. It is sung in French but we do get some of Shakespeare’s memorable lines in the English surtitles.

The singing was very good with some superb performances. Tenor Duke Kim was agile vocally and physically as Romeo. He showed versatility and displayed Romeo’s passion and despair with fervour and gave an all-around enjoyable performance.

Juliet was sung by soprano Magdalena Kuzma, a young and developing singer who showed some fine vocalizing. However, her vocal strength was more apparent when she showed conviction and defiance rather than when she expressed love and passion. I felt that her voice may be more suitable for dramatic soprano roles rather than the lyrical quality that is more suitable, indeed essential for Juliet.  

Magdalena Kuźma (above) as Juliet and Duke Kim as Romeo.
Credit: Evan Zimmerman/The Glimmerglass Festival

Bass-baritone Stefano de Peppo as Lord Capulet starts the opera with the joyous aria “Allons! jeunes gens!” inviting the guests at his party to have fun. It is an ironic opening to an opera that will end in utter tragedy. De Peppo’s performance is marvelous as a forthright singer and Juliet’s father.

Baritone Olivier Zerouali (Mercutio), another young singer, had the opportunity to display his versatility and showmanship especially in “Mab, reine des mensonges” and he did with pizazz.

Bass Sergio Martinez sang Friar Laurence with sonority and a beautiful display of decency. Contralto Meredith Arwady plays Gertrude, better known as the Nurse, as a comic and upfront character that is quite enjoyable.

The set by Dan Soule is superb in its effect and versatility. It consists of several moveable pieces that at first show the aristocratic house of the Capulets. A grand staircase can be seen and a balcony. The pieces are moved around for the balcony scene, the street scene, Friar Laurence’s cell, Juliet’s bedroom etc. Efficient and effective without ostentation.

(L to R) Magdalena Kuźma as Juliet, Stefano de Peppo as 
Count Capulet, and Meredith Arwady as Gertrude. 
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman/The Glimmerglass Festival

Director Simon Godwin is a man of the theatre who has directed many Shakespeare plays including Romeo and Juliet for the stage. His sense of theatre serves him well in directing this production. The various scenes are handled meticulously and with Choreographer Jonathan Goddard the fight scenes are done splendidly.

The masked party of the opening scene gives the impression that the costumes may be some adaptation of sixteenth century attire. In the subsequent scenes the actors wear modern clothes which work just fine for the production.

The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra shone under the baton of Joseph Colaneri  


Romeo and Juliet by Charles Gounod opened on July 15 and will be performed in repertory seven times until August 19, 2023, at the Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, New York.  www.glimmerglass.org

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

No comments:

Post a Comment