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RomÉo et Juliette
The chorus chants of Verona's Montague-Capulet feud and of Roméo and Juliette, who were determined to love though doomed to a tragic death.
At a masked ball given by Capulet, Juliette's cousin Tybalt and her suitor Pâris eagerly wait for her to appear. When Capulet presents his daughter, everyone exclaims at her beauty; Juliette responds with joy at attending her first party. Capulet tells his guests to have a good time and, after a ballet entertainment, leads them to another room.
Roméo and other Montagues, masked, steal into the empty room, all but Roméo looking for trouble. Mercutio sings of Queen Mab, the mistress of fantasy ("Mab, la reine des mensonges ,") for Roméo has had an ominous dream. Suddenly he sees Juliette coming and hails her as queen of the skies, then hides with his friends as she enters with her nurse. Reveling in the freedom of youth ("Je veux vivre,") she has her first taste of the pangs of love when Roméo approaches, unmasked ("Ange adorable.") She responds sweetly until Tybalt interrupts them. Roméo rushes off, but Tybalt has recognized the Montague and gets a group up to follow him. Only Capulet's intervention prevents bloodshed, and the party continues.
Under Juliette's balcony, heedless of his friends' calls for him, Roméo hails her as the sun, the purest and brightest star ("Ah léve-toi, soleil!") She appears, bewailing her love for a family enemy, but when Roméo steps forward, the feud is forgotten and the young people ecstatically pledge their love. Roméo hides again when a group of Capulets passes in search of him, but he is back in a moment, and the two plan to marry the next day with a rhapsodic farewell ("nuit divine.")
In Frère Laurent's cell, Roméo and Juliette arrive with her nurse and ask the friar to marry them. He does, hoping their union will bring peace to the warring families, and asking God's mercy for them ("Dieu, qui fis l'hemme.")
That same morning, Roméo's page, Stéphano plants himself outside the Capulet's palace to insult them with a mocking song ("Qui fais-tu blanche tourterelle?,") provoking a fight. When Tybalt challenges Mercutio, Roméo comes in to stop the quarrel, answering Tybalt's attack with words of friendship. Enraged by his friend's complacency, Mercutio defends Montague's honor with his sword and is fatally wounded by Tybalt. He dies cursing both families.
Roméo turns furiously on Tybalt, killing him as the square fills with outraged citizens. Capulet calls for revenge, and the Duke of Verona appears. Sick of endless bloodshed, he banishes Roméo from the city. Roméo cries that not even death can keep him from Juliette.
That night in Juliette's bedroom, the lovers exchange words of adoration ("Nuit d'hyménée!,"), Roméo leaves reluctantly at dawn.
Capulet and the friar greet Juliette with the news that she is to marry Pâris that very day. Alone with Laurent, Juliette appeals for help, and he gives her a potion to simulate death, promising she will wake with Roméo beside her. Draining the vial, she collapses as her family comes to lead her to the altar.
In Juliette's tomb, Roméo gives way to despair ("Salut! tombeau!,") believing she is really dead. Refusing to survive her, he takes poison himself; only then does Juliette awaken.
The pair ecstatically hail a new life together, but Roméo begins to falter as the poison takes effect, and he bids her a tender farewell. Frantically, she uses his knife to join him in death. Praying for forgiveness, they die in each other's arms.
Opera News; December 6, 1986
Charles Gounod (Bio)
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