Vocalist - Tenor
Syracuse Opera stages a stunning 'Romeo and Juliet'
SYRACUSE - Last weekend Syracuse Opera staged an especially noteworthy production of Charles Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette,"quite remarkable in every department - singing, acting, conducting and directing.

It was a colorful production as well that borrowed detailed period costumes from Utah Opera and a very functional unit-set from Tri-Cities Opera. Projected English titles by Paul Dorgan, supplementing the generally well-sung French, were clear if somewhat literal.

The Barbier-Carré adaptation of Shakespeare's play is more succinct than its source. While preserving the essential tragic romance, it takes substantial liberties with the original in character and text and, especially in the abbreviated version customarily performed by most regional companies, quite effectively conflates Shakespeare's five acts into three while sparing us the longueurs of The Bard's original.

Observing cuts by now standard - the beautiful wedding chorus of the original Act 4 (which this writer nonetheless shamelessly loves!), the humorous interruption of the balcony scene by the Capulet mob and Frère Laurent's brief dialogue with Frère Jean, action flowed into a sensible, uninterrupted whole.

The opening declaimed choral prologue on the feuding families was powerfully sung, though some of the mimed action seemed a trifle extended, invariably a sore temptation for excess by any director, even one as obviously adept as Syracuse newcomer Marc Astafan. Astafan's direction, save for two small discrepancies, manifested striking attention to detail, motivation and realism, in the vigorous duels of Tybalt, Mercutio and Roméo, an almost R-rated bedroom scene and a heart-rending tomb scene. Take that, Franco Zeffirelli!

From the lively opening mazurka of the Capulet party scene to the pathos of the final bars in the Capulet crypt, conductor Douglas Kinney Frost's reading of Gounod's sumptuous score was seamless.

In the strongly cast title roles, the Roméo of tenor Scott Ramsay was superb. Ramsay, with the bearing and hunky appearance of a Gerard Depardieu, sang his balcony scene apostrophe ("Ah! lève-toi, soleil!") with powerful and ringing ardor, the final scene's "Salut! tombeau" and his deadly toast with somber passion.

Stephen G. Landesman, Ithaca Journal
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