Roméo et Juliette
is an opéra
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
in five acts by Charles Gounod
Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, known for his Ave Maria as well as his operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette.-Biography:...
to a French
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
libretto by Jules Barbier
Paul Jules Barbier was a French poet, writer and opera librettist who often wrote in collaboration with Michel Carré...
and Michel Carré
Michel Carré was a prolific French librettist.He went to Paris in 1840 intending to become a painter but took up writing instead. He wrote verse and plays before turning to writing libretti. His libretto for Mirette was never performed in France but was later performed in English adaptation in...
, based on The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...
by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...
. It was first performed at the Théâtre Lyrique
The Théâtre Lyrique was one of four opera companies performing in Paris during the middle of the 19th century . The company was founded in 1847 as the Opéra-National by the French composer Adolphe Adam and renamed Théâtre Lyrique in 1852...
(Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial du Châtelet), Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
on 27 April 1867. This opera is notable for the series of four duets for the main characters and the waltz song "Je veux vivre" for the soprano.
Gounod's opera Faust
Faust is a drame lyrique in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part 1...
had become popular at the Théâtre Lyrique since its premiere in 1859 (it was performed over 300 times between 1859 and 1868) and this led to a further commission from the director Carvalho. Behind the scenes there were difficulties in casting the lead tenor, and Gounod was said to have composed the last act twice, but after the public general rehearsal and first night it was hailed as a major success for the composer. Its success was aided by the presence of dignitaries in Paris for the Exhibition
The Exposition Universelle of 1867 was a World Exposition held in Paris, France, in 1867.-Conception:In 1864, Emperor Napoleon III decreed that an international exposition should be held in Paris in 1867. A commission was appointed with Prince Jerome Napoleon as president, under whose direction...
, several of whom attended performances. A parody soon appeared at the Théâtre Déjazet, entitled Rhum et eau en juillet
(Rum and water in july
The opera entered the repertoire of the Opéra-Comique
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...
on 20 January 1873 (with Deloffre and Carvalho returning to their roles from the premiere), where it received 391 performances in 14 years.
On the 28 November 1888 Roméo et Juliette
transferred to the Paris Opéra, with Adelina Patti
Adelina Patti was a highly acclaimed 19th-century opera singer, earning huge fees at the height of her career in the music capitals of Europe and America. She first sang in public as a child in 1851 and gave her last performance before an audience in 1914...
and Jean de Reszke
Jean de Reszke, born Jan Mieczyslaw, , was a Polish tenor. Renowned internationally for the high quality of his singing and the elegance of his bearing, he became the biggest male opera star of the late 19th century....
in the leading roles. The opera was first seen in London (with Patti and Mario
Giovanni Matteo "Mario" was an Italian opera singer. The most celebrated tenor of his era, he was lionized by audiences in Paris and London.-Early life:...
) on 11 July 1867 and in New York (with Minnie Hauk
thumb|Minnie Hauk in a [[cabinet card]] photograph, ca. 1880Amalia Mignon Hauck , was an American operatic soprano....
) at the Academy of Music on 15 November of that year.
Henry Sutherland Edwards was a British journalist.He was born in London, and educated in London and France. He was correspondent of The Times at the coronation of Alexander II of Russia, in the camp of the insurgents at Warsaw , and at German army headquarters during the Franco-Prussian War...
, music critic of the St. James's Gazette
, wrote the following about the opera following its first performance in London in 1867:
Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, in which the composer is always pleasing, though seldom impressive, might be described as the powerful drama of Romeo and Juliet reduced to the proportions of an eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...
for Juliet and Romeo. One remembers the work as a series of very pretty duets, varied by a sparkling waltz air for Juliet, in which Madame Patti displays that tragic genius, which belongs to her equally, with the highest capacity for comedy. [Vaccai's] Romeo e Giulietta
Giulietta e Romeo is an opera in two acts by the Italian composer Nicola Vaccai. The libretto, by Felice Romani, is based on the tragedy by of the same name by Luigi Scevola and, ultimately, on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It was first performed at the Teatro alla Canobbiana, Milan on 31...
is an admirable opera for Giulietta; in which Romeo is not forgotten.
||Premiere Cast, 27 April 1867
(Conductor: Adolphe Deloffre
Louis Michel Adolphe Deloffre was a French violinist and conductor active in London and Paris, who conducted several important operatic premieres in the latter city, particularly by Charles Gounod and Georges Bizet....
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
|Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho
Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho was a famed French operatic soprano, particularly associated with light lyric and coloratura roles....
|Roméo, son of Montaigu
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...
|Mercutio, Romeo's friend
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...
|Stéphano, Romeo's page
|Tybalt, Lady Capulet's nephew
|Gertrude, Juliet's nurse
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...
Louis Émile Wartel was an opera singer and teacher active in Paris. He was the son of the musicians François Wartel and Thérèse Wartel.-Life and career:...
|Paris, a young count
|Grégorio, Capulet's servant
|Benvolio, Montague's nephew
|Male and female retainers and kinsmen of the Houses of Capulet and Montague, maskers
A short chorus sets the scene of the rival families in Verona.
A masked ball in the Capulets’ palace
Tybalt talks to Paris about Juliette, who appears with her father. Roméo, Mercutio, Benvolio and their friends enter, disguised, and Mercutio sings a ballad about Queen Mab, after which Juliette sings a joyful waltz song. The first meeting between Roméo and Juliette takes place, and they fall in love. But Tybalt re-appears and suspects that the hastily re-masked Roméo is his rival. While Tybalt wants immediate revenge, Capulet orders that the ball continue.
The Capulets' garden
After Roméo's page Stephano has helped his master gain access, he reveals the two young lovers exchanging their vows of love.
Scene 1: Laurent's cell
Roméo and Juliette, accompanied by Gertrude, go to the cell, and the wedding takes place. Laurent hopes that reconciliation between the houses of the Montagus and the Capulets may thus take place.
Scene 2: a street near Capulet's palace
Stephano sings to attract the occupants into the street. Gregoire and Stephano skirmish as men from each family appear. The duel is first between Tybalt and Mercutio, who falls dead, and then between Roméo, determined to avenge his comrade, and Tybalt. Tybalt is killed by Roméo, who is banished by the Duke.
Juliet's room at dawn
Roméo and Juliette are together and, after a long duet, Roméo departs for exile. Juliette's father comes to remind her of Tybalt's dying wish for Juliette to marry Count Paris. The friar gives Juliette a draught which will cause her to sleep, so as to appear as if dead and, after being laid in the family tomb, it is planned that Roméo will awaken her and take her away. [A ballet scene in the grand hall of the palace was inserted at this point.]
Roméo breaks into the tomb after having taken poison because he believes that Juliette is dead. When she awakes from the friar’s potion, the lovers' last duet is heard before the poison takes effect on Roméo. As her bridegroom weakens Juliette stabs herself, to be united with her lover in death.