Festival Opera's Carmen
SF Opera's Il Trovatore

Opera San José's Roméo et Juliette

IMG_3054* Notes *
Gounod's Roméo et Juliette (Sunday matinée ovation pictured, photograph by Charlise Tiee) opened Opera San José's fortieth season last weekend. The singing yesterday was very lovely and lyrical. It was well worth the drive to the South Bay to hear.

General Director Shawna Lucey directed this new production, which did not seem to be of a particular time or place. The costumes had elements of historic and contemporary clothing. It was difficult to tell if we were inside or outside, as there were numerous walls of greenery and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was interesting to see a crumbling cathedral window in the background of Acts IV and V, I feel like it was repurposed from Opera San José's elaborate production of Lucia di Lammermoor. The scene changes were simple and transitions were very smooth.

The direction included an alarming sword fight between Montagues and Capulets during the Prologue. While it did keep the audience engaged, the action involved a young girl being accidentally killed, which was distressing to watch and also a bit on the nose as far as the plot of this opera and Shakespeare's play. Antara Bhardwaj's choreography did work with this out-of-time production, the kathak meets ballet was elegant and it was great to hear some of the ballet music for this opera, which often gets cut from modern performances. Bhardwaj was also one of the four dancers to perform.

Gounod's music is tuneful and fun to listen to. As is often the case at Opera San José though, the singers were the main attraction of the afternoon. There were so many young singers, no less than a dozen soloists. I liked how they utilized the cast for the choruses as well, it did fill things out. But it was also clear that they were accustomed to being principal singers, and not everyone blended in exactly. I could very distinctly hear tenor WooYoung Yoon (Benvolio), for instance.

Bass Kenneth Kellogg exuded both exasperation and authority as The Duke of Verona while baritone Robert Balonek was a ostentatious Count Capulet. Tenor Alex Boyer makes for a villainous Tybalt and one could not help but feel badly for baritone Efraín Solís as Mercutio.

The title roles were splendidly cast. Tenor Joshua Sanders was believable as Romeo, he sounded reedy and plaintive. He has impressive control and was able to hit all his high notes without sounding strained. Soprano Jasmine Habersham (who shares the role of Juliette with Melissa Sondhi) started off a bit on the harsh side, though her "Je veux vivre" was exciting. Her voice really bloomed in the second half of the performance, I loved how round and full she sounded, and her character is certainly  the most sympathetic.

*Tattling *
There were all kinds of noises from hearing aid feedback to cellular phone rings in the first half of the show. There was also loud snoring from more than one person in the center orchestra section.

In the second half, there was less snoring but a person on the aisle of Row D or E kept rustling food in some kind of plastic wrap and seemed to drop several objects on the ground.