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Theater Review : Romeo and Juliet at The Kennedy Center

Credit : Scott Suchman

Please note that the show is sung in French, but English titles will be projected for your convenience.

Saturday, November 4th, was a night of music and romance as the world-renowned Kennedy Center presented the William Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet as an Opera. Charles Gounod oversees the music for this production, featuring the vocal talents of the Washington National Opera.

The story of Romeo and Juliet has been a captivating tale for centuries, transcending both time and culture. It follows the story of young love and tragic fate, which has been retold numerous times, but none have been as remarkable as the 1996 version directed by Baz Luhrmann. When I learned that The Kennedy Center would have an operatic adaptation, I added it to my list of events to attend. I had previously heard R&B singers like Gary "Lil G" Jenkins and Kenny Lattimore do opera, but never actually seen a full-on show.

The overture of Romeo and Juliet transports the audience to the passionate and turbulent world of Verona. Through the composer's beautiful compositions, the emotions of our star-crossed lovers, Romeo (Adam Smith) and Juliet (Rosa Feola), are magnified, amplifying their joys and sorrows. The overture itself is a musical euphoria that engulfs listeners in a whirlwind of anticipation, setting the stage for the heart-wrenching drama that is to come.

The opera expresses human emotions through the power of the human voice. As Romeo and Juliet sing together, their voices capture the essence of their love. Their performances are touching and impossible not to be moved by. The supporting cast is equally remarkable, bringing to life the colorful characters that populate Verona.

The characters in the opera, such as the fiery Mercutio, played by Justin Austin, and Tybalt, played by Duke Kim, were brought to life by the talented cast. The wise Friar Laurence, portrayed by Nicholas Testse, and the Capulets and Montagues, who were stern but loving, were also brilliantly acted. Each singer added nuance and depth to their roles, and their emotional voices filled the opera house, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

Apart from the impressive vocal performances, the stage design and production elements of Romeo & Juliet are a treat for the eyes. The luxurious sets take us to Renaissance Verona, adorned with grand palaces, moonlit gardens, and bustling marketplaces. The costumes are a visual delight, reflecting the luxury of the period and the social strata of the characters.

We all know how the story ends, and the opera's take on a tragic conclusion sticks it landing. As the final notes resounded, the audience was left breathless, their hearts torn between anguish and awe. The story, with all its sorrow and loss, serves as a poignant reminder of the power of love and the devastating consequences of human folly. The opera's ability to evoke such raw emotions is a testament to its enduring impact.

With its soaring melodies, passionate performances, and grandeur, this opera takes Shakespeare's immortal words and elevates them to the realm of the divine. Even if you aren't an opera fan, I highly recommend checking this one out.

Final Grade: B+

Romeo and Juliet Opera runs through November 18th at The Kennedy Center.


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