by Willard Manus
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).
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-972-8001 or visit