Gounod directly adapted his lyrical opera from William Shakespeare's play; the librettists thus remained very close to several characteristics of the play, such as Mercutio's famous "Queen Mab" speech and the balcony scene. After the warlike overture which illustrates the rivalry between the two families, the chorus tells the unavoidable tragedy:
"Verona, saw of old, two rival families:
The Montagues, the Capulets.
From their endless wars, to both of them fatal
Shed blood on the threshold of their palaces.
Like a vermilion ray shines in a stormy sky
Juliette appeared, and Roméo loved her."
The four duets between the two lovers express this sudden and passionate love and are among the most beautiful pieces of late French romanticism.
With this production, the young Roberto Alagna is propelled on the forefront of the international scene. Known as a reference interpreter of Romeo, he will go back to this role on numerous stages and on records. Together with Leontina Vaduva, they perfectly personify the dreamy and impassioned lovers.
Christopher Hogwood, Wayne McGregor – Lucy Crowe (Belinda), Sarah Connolly (Dido) – Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Evelino Pidò, Marco Arturo Marelli – Natalie Dessay (Amina), Javier Camarena (Elvino) – Opéra Bastille