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Charles François Gounod
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GOUNOD: Roméo et Juliette

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Music composed by Charles François Gounod. Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Charles François Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

Franco Corelli, Gianna D'Angelo, Agostino Ferrin, Peter Gottlieb, Nancy Williams, Mauro Lampi, Ruth Carron, Benjamin Rayson, Louis Picciardo, William Beck,Louis Sgarro, Philadelphia Opera, Anton Guadagno (cond.)
Live, 14 April 1964


First performance: 27 April 1867 at Théâtre Lyrique, Paris.

Principal characters:

Juliette [Juliet] Soprano
Roméo [Romeo] son of Montaigu [Montague] Tenor
Frère Laurent [Friar Laurence] Bass
Mercutio friend to Romeo Baritone
Stéphano page to Romeo Soprano
Capulet Bass
Tybalt, nephew of Lady Capulet Tenor
Gertrude, nurse to Juliet Mezzo-Soprano
The Duke Bass
Paris, a young count Baritone
Grégorio [Gregory] servant to Capulet Baritone
Benvolio nephew of Montague Tenor
Frère Jean [Friar John] Bass

Time and Place: Renaissance Verona


Act I

After a stormy orchestral introduction, depicting the hostility which reigns between the Capulet and the Montaigu, the curtain rises on a declaimed choral prologue summarizing the tragedy. Act I. A masked ball in the palace of the Capulet. The guests sing the pleasures which await them this evening (introduction: "L'heure s'envole"). Young noble Pâris is amazed at the magnificence of the ball, but Tybalt, nephew of Capulet, assures him that he will forget this magnificence, when he sees the magnificent Juliette, daughter of Capulet. When Capulet leads his daughter in the room, she becomes indeed the centre of attention. Capulet invites cheerfully the guests to dance in the nearby rooms and is delighted to leave Pâris to escort Juliette. When the stage is empty, masked Roméo Montaigu and his friends Mercutio and Benvolio come out of their hiding place. Due to their disguise, they were able to enter the rival house without being recognized. Roméo has now reserves on their outing and wishes to leave. He explains that he recently had a dream that filled him with somber premonitions as to their adventure. Mercutio frivolously brushes aside his premonitions, saying they are the work of the queen Mab (ballad of the queen Mab: "Mab, la reine des mensonges"). Roméo is comforted by this ballad, but suddenly sees Juliette through an open door. He falls in love with her in an instant. Enchanted, Roméo is pushed outside by his friends as Juliette enters, with her nanny, Gertrude. Gertrude sings Pâris's praises to her, as a future husband. Juliette, for her part, protests her lack of interest for this marriage (ariette: "Je veux vivre"). The nanny goes away and, while Juliette gets ready to return to the dance, Roméo comes out of a corner of the room. After some words, they realize that their destinies are bound (madrigal: "Ange adorable!"). In the exchange which follows, Roméo discovers that he fell in love with a Capulet. Although Roméo has his mask back on, Tybalt manages to identify him. After Roméo's hasty departure, Tybalt reveals to Juliette that she spoke with a hated Montaigu. The guests return in the centre of the scene: Roméo and his friends are among them. Mercutio thinks that they were noticed and the Montaigu operate a hasty retreat. Capulet does not authorize Tybalt to follow them and encourages his guests to pursue festivities.

Act II

The garden of Capulet at night. To the left, the window and Juliette's balcony. Roméo left his friends and came back like a thief in the garden of the Capulet. He shouts out to Juliette as to a rising sun (cavatina: "Ah! Lève-toi, soleil"). Shortly after, she appears on the balcony and Roméo reveals his presence. She asks him for a declaration of love and allegiance which he gives her enthusiastically. Their soft words are for a moment interrupted by Grégorio and other servants of the Capulet, who roam the garden in search of a page of Montaigu seen in the area (scene and choir: "Personne! Le page aura fui"). When peace returns, Roméo springs out of his hiding place (duet: "O nuit divine"). Juliette confirms that she is ready to marry him at the time of his choice and Roméo repeats his oath. They are again interrupted, this time by Gertrude, who calls Juliette in the house. The two lovers part reluctantly.


Brother Laurent's cell. At dawn. In the wings, a monks' choir can be heard. Brother Laurent enters with a basket filled with plants and flowers, which he is going to use to make secret potions. He sings the miracles of nature (choir and cavatina: "Breceau de tous les êtres"). Roméo rides up and tells him about his love for Juliette Capulet. Juliette follows him soon with Gertrude. The two lovers ask brother Laurent to unite them. Convinced of the force of their affection, he performs the ceremony (trio and quartet: "Dieu qui fis l'homme à ton image"). A street in front of the house of Capulet. Roméo's page, Stéphano, is mocking the Capulet with a song speaking about a white dove prisoner in a nest of vultures (song: "Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?"). This scene attracts Grégorio and other servants of the Capulet outside (finale: "Ah! Voici nos gens!"). Stéphano resumes at once the tune of his song in their presence, and challenges Grégorio to a duel. Mercutio is indignant to see Grégorio fight a duel with a simple child. Tybalt warns Mercutio to pay attention to his words, and they also get involved in a duel. When Roméo arrives, Tybalt turns around at once to face him. Roméo keeps his head and asks Tybalt to forget the days of hatred between the two families. It is Mercutio who decides to defend Roméo's honor. He resumes the duel with Tybalt, and is wounded when Roméo throws himself between the two duellists. Roméo, suddenly in anger, tries to obtain vengeance; he fights with Tybalt and gives him a mortal blow. A brass band and a marching troop announce the arrival of Duke. The partisans of both houses shout for justice and, having learnt what happened, the Duke exiles Roméo away from Vérona. Before the drop of the curtain, the members of the two houses renew their resentful curses.

Act IV

Juliette's room in the early hours. Juliette forgives Roméo for killing one of her relatives (duet: "Va! Je t'ai pardonné"). They sing both their love during the wedding night. Roméo suddenly loosens his embrace when he hears the lark announcing the day. Juliette refuses at first to believe it, but she then becomes aware of reality. They know they have to part before being discovered. After the departure of Roméo, Capulet, Gertrude and brother Laurent enter the room (quartet: "Juliette! Ah, le ciel soit loué!"). Capulet announces to Juliette that the last wish of Tybalt was to see Juliette marrying Pâris, and that this marriage is already arranged. Juliette is in despair. When her father leaves her room, she says to brother Laurent that she would prefer to die rather than to marry Pâris. He suggests a trick by which she will be able to escape with Roméo. She should drink a narcotic which will give her the appearance of death. Capulet will transport the body to the family grave, where Roméo will find her. Juliette accepts this plan. She appeals to all her courage (air: "Dieu! Quel frisson court dans les veines!"). A vision of the bloodstained Tybalt makes her hesitate, but she empties finally the phial. A magnificent room at the Capulet's. Juliette enters to the sound of a wedding march . The guests present her their best wishes and offer her wedding presents, but as Capulet takes her arm to lead her into the chapel, she collapses. In the general horror, Capulet exclaims that his daughter has died.

Act V

A subterranean crypt at the Capulet's. Juliette is laying on a grave. Brother Laurent learns from another monk, brother Jean, that Roméo did not receive the letter explaining the trick to him, because his page was attacked. Brother Laurent asks Jean to find another messenger. After an instrumental interlude intended to depict Juliette's state, Roméo appears. Believing Juliette dead ; he drinks the poison he carried with him. At that moment, she wakes up and they sing their love. Roméo tells her that he has just absorbed a fatal poison. While he weakens, Juliette reveals a dagger hidden in her clothes and stabs herself. In a monumental final effort, Roméo and Juliette ask for divine leniency before dying.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

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