Romeo Et Juliette
Review by Willard Manus

Charles Gounod's ROMEO ET JULIETTE has long served as a star vehicle for young singers, thanks to its five long, passionate love duets. This time around, in a sizzling revival at Los Angeles Opera, the singers were Vittorio Griolo and Nino Machaidze, both of whom delivered the vocal (and acting) goods with fire and bravura.

As directed by Ian Judge, with Placido Domingo conducting, Griolo and Machaidze made everyone forget Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko, who came to prominence in L.A. Opera's 2005 production. Griolo and Machaidze are now the opera world's new dream couple, as one critic said.

Tenor Griolo not only has a big, deep voice (at 34) but an athleticism and charisma that were perfect for Romeo. Machaidze, who made her 2009 local debut in Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love,"

is a soprano with a darkly beautiful and haunting voice. Together they gave ROMEO ET JULIETTE a sexually-charged force that powered the opera from beginning to end.
Among the other outstanding singers were bass Vitalij Kowaljow as Friar Laurence, baritone Vladimir Chernov as Lord Capulet, mezzo-soprano Renee Rapier as Stephano, and tenor Alexey Sayapin as the vengeful Tybalt.

Another plus was John Gunter's towering, metallic set which was used to good advantage in the balcony, cathedral and Capulet scenes, not just by the principals but by the supernumeraries and chorus. Nigel Leving's lighting and Tim Goodchild's costumes were big helps as well.

Ultimately, though, the night belonged to Grigolo and Machaidze and their fabulous, star-making performances.

(In February L.A. Opera will mount a production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, with names like Conlon, Moshinsky, Yeargan and Domingo attached to it).
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