Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gounod
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Roméo et Juliette
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Ruth Ann Swenson, Susan Graham, Sarah Walker; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68440 2 DDD
Following the sensational popularity of Faust, Gounod was keen to enjoy a similar success, and believed Shakespeare’s play would provide a suitable vehicle. He was right, although Roméo et Juliette is somewhat uneven, mainly because Gounod was prepared to bow to the demands of conventional French grand opera: for example, there is an invented trouser role and a ballet with other extensive additions to Act IV that are – perhaps happily – omitted here. Nevertheless, the libretto provided Gounod with opportunities to compose some of his most effective dramatic music.

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In this enjoyable recording, the grand set pieces, such as the Capulet’s ball, are vividly evoked, with strong support from the chorus, and Slatkin largely manages to avoid indulging Gounod’s tendency to grandiloquence and religiosity. More impressive are the intimate passages, such as the scene in Juliet’s garden and the lovers’ duets in Act IV – here, Slatkin brings out the grace and melodiousness of Gounod’s music. As the star-cross’d lovers, Domingo and Swenson sing with conviction and lyricism, although hardly with great youthfulness; and elsewhere Kurt Ollmann is a robust Mercutio and Alastair Miles makes an imposing Friar Laurence. William Humphreys-Jones