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Thread: Operas of Gounod - Romeo and Juliette

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Default Operas of Gounod - Romeo and Juliette

    Fabulously beautiful opera. I'd take this to my desert island when in the mood. What are your choices on disc?
    Last edited by DavidA; Nov-01-2019 at 21:49.

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    This one can't be bettered IMO (and as you like the same team's Manon, is probably the one for you):

    Romeo - Pappano.jpg

    Fine modern digital sound, superbly conducted by Pappano with a fantastic cast from top to bottom. As far as I am aware it is also note complete including even the ballet music.

    There are a few other recordings (studio or live) that one might choose to supplement that one and in most cases the reason to get them is the tenor. There's Kraus, Bjorling, Domingo and Vanzo to choose from.

    I only have two recordings of the opera (it not being a particular favourite of mine) and apart from the one above I recently bought this one which is surprisingly good:

    Romeo - Lombard.jpg

    Freni is a charmingly innocent Juliette as one would expect and although there's much criticism of Corelli's French it's not as bad here as it was on his Carmen recording. (In any case Corelli's French is nowhere near as bad as Pavarotti's Neapolitan and no one complains about that!) I think this is one of those recordings that could do with a reevaluation.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Nov-02-2019 at 00:03.

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    Yes, I have only the Plasson set. Wonderful. Is the only reason I listen to that opera (because I prefer Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi version of the Romeon and Juliet story. You can get Gheorghiu and Alagna in an abridged movie-like performance of this opera and it is quite enjoyable IMO. Run time 73 minutes. Back cover image.
    Last edited by SixFootScowl; Nov-02-2019 at 02:12.
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    Another quite wonderful performance is this full length production:
    Last edited by SixFootScowl; Nov-02-2019 at 02:10.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    This one can't be bettered IMO (and as you like the same team's Manon, is probably the one for you):

    Romeo - Pappano.jpg

    Fine modern digital sound, superbly conducted by Pappano with a fantastic cast from top to bottom. As far as I am aware it is also note complete including even the ballet music.

    There are a few other recordings (studio or live) that one might choose to supplement that one and in most cases the reason to get them is the tenor. There's Kraus, Bjorling, Domingo and Vanzo to choose from.

    I only have two recordings of the opera (it not being a particular favourite of mine) and apart from the one above I recently bought this one which is surprisingly good:

    Romeo - Lombard.jpg

    Freni is a charmingly innocent Juliette as one would expect and although there's much criticism of Corelli's French it's not as bad here as it was on his Carmen recording. (In any case Corelli's French is nowhere near as bad as Pavarotti's Neapolitan and no one complains about that!) I think this is one of those recordings that could do with a reevaluation.

    N.

    The same but in revers order.
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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    This one can't be bettered IMO (and as you like the same team's Manon, is probably the one for you):

    Romeo - Pappano.jpg

    Fine modern digital sound, superbly conducted by Pappano with a fantastic cast from top to bottom. As far as I am aware it is also note complete including even the ballet music.

    There are a few other recordings (studio or live) that one might choose to supplement that one and in most cases the reason to get them is the tenor. There's Kraus, Bjorling, Domingo and Vanzo to choose from.

    I only have two recordings of the opera (it not being a particular favourite of mine) and apart from the one above I recently bought this one which is surprisingly good:

    Romeo - Lombard.jpg

    Freni is a charmingly innocent Juliette as one would expect and although there's much criticism of Corelli's French it's not as bad here as it was on his Carmen recording. (In any case Corelli's French is nowhere near as bad as Pavarotti's Neapolitan and no one complains about that!) I think this is one of those recordings that could do with a reevaluation.

    N.
    It's not just Corelli's French I can't take, but his totally unidiomatic mangling of the music. It's about as far away from the French style as you could get. I'm pretty sure the Lombard is cut too.

    Before the Alagna/Gheorghiu one came along, I used to enjoy the first Plasson with Kraus and Malfitano. Kraus hardly sounds like a young man, I grant you, but his singing is eminently more stylish than Corelli's and Malfitano does a great job as Juliette.



    Just as Gheorghiu was catapulted to stardom when she first sang Violetta at Covent Garden, it was Alagna's Roméo at the same house that did the same for him. I saw the production and he was absolutely superb. Vaduva was a delightlfully girlish Juliette and the production has been preserved on film.



    What a shame Bjørling didn't make a studio recording of the opera.

    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Nov-02-2019 at 12:27.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    It's not just Corelli's French I can't take, but his totally unidiomatic mangling of the music. It's about as far away from the French style as you could get. I'm pretty sure the Lombard is cut too.
    Yes, I know what you mean and I'm biased because I am a total Corelli nut! However, I don't think he is as bad as some people have described in reviews I've read and Corelli is suitably heroic for the role (and his Romeo is more subtle than his Manrico or Radames). However, at the end of the day it comes down to personal taste.

    I haven't checked in detail, but the Lombard must be cut (one of the reasons it isn't my first choice).


    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Just as Gheorghiu was catapulted to stardom when she first sang Violetta at Covent Garden, it was Alagna's Roméo at the same house that did the same for him. I saw the production and he was absolutely superb. Vaduva was a delightlfully girlish Juliette and the production has been preserved on film.

    This would be my DVD choice too.

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post

    This would be my DVD choice too.

    N.
    Now look what y'all did. I am going to have to get a copy of this DVD now.
    "Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Sahara of musical trash."
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    This one can't be bettered IMO (and as you like the same team's Manon, is probably the one for you):

    Romeo - Pappano.jpg

    Fine modern digital sound, superbly conducted by Pappano with a fantastic cast from top to bottom. As far as I am aware it is also note complete including even the ballet music.

    There are a few other recordings (studio or live) that one might choose to supplement that one and in most cases the reason to get them is the tenor. There's Kraus, Bjorling, Domingo and Vanzo to choose from.

    I only have two recordings of the opera (it not being a particular favourite of mine) and apart from the one above I recently bought this one which is surprisingly good:

    Romeo - Lombard.jpg

    Freni is a charmingly innocent Juliette as one would expect and although there's much criticism of Corelli's French it's not as bad here as it was on his Carmen recording. (In any case Corelli's French is nowhere near as bad as Pavarotti's Neapolitan and no one complains about that!) I think this is one of those recordings that could do with a reevaluation.

    N.
    There you are, Monsieur le Conte, we do agree on something! I have the same recordings and would agree on just about everything you say. I did trade in the Domingo recording as by the time he recorded it his voice was far too heavy for Romeo. But the two you mention are in my collection and highly enjoyable in their very different ways, as long as you realise Corelli's French was never heard in la belle France!

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Yes, I know what you mean and I'm biased because I am a total Corelli nut! However, I don't think he is as bad as some people have described in reviews I've read and Corelli is suitably heroic for the role (and his Romeo is more subtle than his Manrico or Radames). However, at the end of the day it comes down to personal taste.

    I haven't checked in detail, but the Lombard must be cut (one of the reasons it isn't my first choice).




    This would be my DVD choice too.

    N.
    The Plasson includes the ballet music which is why it is on 3 CDs

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    The Plasson includes the ballet music which is why it is on 3 CDs
    I think you'll find the Lombard also omits Juiette's big Act IV scena, which was common practice until the first Plasson recording with Malfitano and Kraus.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Nov-02-2019 at 17:55.
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    Default Gounod Challenge: Favourite Roméo et Juliette

    Reviews I wrote more than one year ago. I think I remember Corelli's French was horrible. Now that I'm discovering his Italian repertoire I'm more a fan of him.

    Here we go.

    Winner



    Gounod
    Roméo et Juliette Live recording
    Jussi Björling, Bidú Sayão, Thomas Hayward, John Brownlee, Nicola Moscona, Mimi Benzell, Kenneth Schon
    Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
    Emil Cooper
    Sony Classical (1947/2011 Remastered Edition)


    2nd place



    Gounod
    Roméo et Juliette Live recording, abridged version
    Alain Vanzo, Huguette Rivière, Jean Mollien, Henri Perrotte, Jacques Mars, Jane Berbié, Michel Roux
    Chœur et Orchestre de la Radio Lyrique
    Pierre-Michel Le Conte
    Walhall (1960/2011 Remastered Edition)


    3rd place



    Gounod
    Roméo et Juliette
    Franco Corelli, Mirella Freni, Robert Cardona, Henri Gui, Xavier Depraz, Éliane Lublin, Claude Calès
    Chœurs et Orchestre du Thêatre National de l’Opéra de Paris
    Alain Lombard
    Warner Classics (1969/1994 Remastered Edition)


    4th place



    Gounod
    Roméo et Juliette
    Plácido Domingo, Ruth Ann Swenson, Paul Charles Clarke, Kurt Ollmann, Alastair Miles, Susan Graham, Alain Vernhes
    Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    Münchner Rundfunkorchester
    Leonard Slatkin
    Sony Classical (1996)


    Top 5-6
    05: Plasson Toulouse 1995
    06: Erede Paris

    This was my last opera challenge before the summer break to review Mahler symphony cycles, but this particular plot makes me sicker than Schakespeare’s Otello. Not empowering, averagely Verdian, very romantic, precious, but very lame parts in Act III. I barely paid attention to the words when I was watching the DVD, but I did to the context, without having a lot of empathy. The famous Covent Garden DVD with Roberto Alagna as Roméo and Leontina Vaduva as Juliette was vocally very pleasing for me but awfully filmed. Too many close-ups in a huge theatrical production. They don’t take advantage of the stage and I have to burn my eyes with that unbearable shaved and wounded face of Alagna. In the end, the composition can be on the level of a good Verdi opera, while I can put up with it perfectly, opposite to Werther. Additionally, the ending and the death of the lovers is beautifully scored. I think this opera has been really lucky because most of the recordings do justice to the opera. Four out of Six are very recommendable, not without pointing out about the singing, sound quality or even score-shattering.

    The two “uncompetitive” recordings of the challenge don’t have serious problems, only that they were unable to persuade me enough, and that has more to do with personal tastes than about x + y = z.

    My only complaint to the mono Paris recording conducted by Alberto Erede is that I was left quite cold about the vocals, especially counting with such a tough competition. Jobin kicks off quite well but he only keeps falling as the Roméo, in spite of his clean and precise French. Janine Micheau is never my taste of Juliette. Laurent (Rehfuss) delivers and Thibalt (Rialland) sings too thinly, without spark.

    Unfortunately, I lost the complete review of the 90s Plasson Toulouse recording in a reset. I didn’t think that I would like the 70s version with Alfredo Kraus playing the male lover, so I ignored it (it’s OOP too, huh). It offered good sound quality and especially strong vocal performances that could be enjoyed if they weren’t compared. No news: normal Gheorghiu-Alagna style. Not my taste. Gheorghiu reigns with her vibrato but her Juliette doesn’t portray youth or characterisation either. I have never liked her. Alagna on the other hand was almost born for this role, and achieves all the heroic and romantic tones that the lover needs (she could also offer it right now, but I get so annoyed with her voice). Because I lost the complete review, I cannot give names to the good performances of the secondary characters.



    I don’t remember the details of these recordings anymore, but I have to admit the high level they offered compared to the score they were dealing with. Four editions (two in stereo and two in mono) would be enough in an opera challenge with 10 or 12 contenders, but this opera was lucky enough to bring the same number of great efforts counting only with half of them. Warning: they are very enjoyable but with particular handicaps. Disappointing supporting cast (Slatkin); odd and ineffective choice of the lovers (Lombard); incomplete recording (Le Conte) or extremely poor sound quality (Cooper).

    4th: Leonard Slatkin, Münchner Rundfunkorchester 1996

    Good recording that I’d like to find in a new Sony remastered reissue, easily the best sound+cast relation. The SQ is digital but the MRO counts with crispy strings and a conductor that never drags or speeds up. Slatkin is irrelevant but allows me to focus on the singing. Ruth Ann Swenson is a very accurate and thin Juliette, with issues to reach the sharpest notes but with enough metal in her voice to hold them enough time. But much more impressive and surprising is the youthful Roméo played by Plácido Domingo, completely of my taste. He’s very subtle in Act I, a thunderbolt singer in the Act III duel (I can only think of Del Monaco bringing so much angst) and a dying angel in Act V, wrapped by the amazing Gounod score. If it weren’t for the fillers in the secondary cast, this would be higher.

    3rd: Alain Lombard, l’Opéra de Paris 1969

    I find this recording musically superior to Slatkin, and the very fine secondary cast helps to put it over the Sony recording. Anyway, this album needs a remaster (bold music but sounds muddy at the same time). I don’t know how to make comments about the odd, irregular main couple, led by an overparted Corelli as Roméo that sounds more forced than his second Don José for Eurodisc. His “idiomatic skills” fade from time to time, and he has lots of trouble with French pronunciation. He is really effortful in the Act II heroic aria and part of Act III, but finally shines his way in Act V. For Juliette, Freni's voice is metallic and very nice for the “vivre” aria. Not enough considering other very strong Juliettes. I can only think of a tie with Slatkin.

    2nd: Pierre-Michel Le Conte, Radio Lyrique 1960

    Roméo and Juliette in a nutshell, so quit wandering off in Verdian sections and unnecessary cast like Act III. It’s not there, and instead we have a French female speaker that enounces the missing story. After the marriage with Laurent in Act II we go directly for 2/3 scenes in Act IV (Roméo et Juliette farewell + Laurent and Juliette poison). The short wedding scene isn’t performed either and we pass to Act V.

    Besides that point, what makes this recording an inexpensive winner is the amazing mono sound quality (and Archipel remaster) which not even the ORF could get on a live in studio recording. Immense brass and orchestral colour, with ok tempo. No one in the cast is a waste, especially Michel Roux (Count Capulet) and Jacques Mars (a show-off Laurent). Henri Perrotte (Mercutio) is more of a baritone than a joker friend. The big point here is the great sound quality that allows us to enjoy hectic performances by Alain Vanzo (Roméo) and Huguette Rivière (Juliette). While Roméo is heroic and spotless, a wonder to listen to, Juliette sounds like a delicious Anja Silja and reaches incredible sharp notes. Your best choice for vocal quality but not really Gounod’s opera.

    1st: Emil Cooper, Metropolitan Opera 1947

    I didn’t write a lot about this recording because I was really overwhelmed by the vocal part of this work. Björling is the great star and the most moving Roméo I can think of (not showing off like Vanzo). In the beginning, I cannot stand the Metropolitan 40s sound, but the cast is almost unbeatable. The Brazilian Bidú Sayão (Juliette) is really powerful. Astonishing Björling with his sharp notes in Act III and a moving duet in Act V. The one to have for singers and complete score.
    Last edited by Granate; Nov-02-2019 at 18:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    Reviews I wrote more than one year ago.
    WOW! I can't believe that neither Plasson makes it into your top 5!

    Whilst Freni is a near perfect Juliette I don't understand how Corelli trumps Alagna or Kraus when you have such a low opinion of him in French repertoire. Also I couldn't agree less about the Slatkin recording as it is a total dud in my opinion. Perhaps it's time to revisit your challenge and see if your views of the recordings has changed?

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    WOW! I can't believe that neither Plasson makes it into your top 5!

    Whilst Freni is a near perfect Juliette I don't understand how Corelli trumps Alagna or Kraus when you have such a low opinion of him in French repertoire. Also I couldn't agree less about the Slatkin recording as it is a total dud in my opinion. Perhaps it's time to revisit your challenge and see if your views of the recordings has changed?

    N.
    Yes same here. Also Domingo is surely too heavy in tone for Romeo by that stage in his career.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    WOW! I can't believe that neither Plasson makes it into your top 5!

    Whilst Freni is a near perfect Juliette I don't understand how Corelli trumps Alagna or Kraus when you have such a low opinion of him in French repertoire. Also I couldn't agree less about the Slatkin recording as it is a total dud in my opinion. Perhaps it's time to revisit your challenge and see if your views of the recordings has changed?

    N.
    Granate's top choice is quite heavily cut too. The ballet music I can do without, but I really miss Juliette's Act IV scena, though I doubt Sayao would have had enough voice for it. The role was usually cast with a light coloratura back then, which is probably why the scene was always cut.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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