The Catholic University of America

Feb. 18, 2013

Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette” Comes to Catholic University

One of the most well-known operatic adaptations of a classic tale by William Shakespeare will be performed by the vocal division at The Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music March 14 to 17.

“Romeo et Juliette,” French composer Charles Gounod’s operatic interpretation of literature’s most famous star-crossed lovers, will be sung in the original French at Hartke Theatre on the campus of Catholic University. The opera in five acts premiered in Paris in 1867.

“There are no gimmicks or tricks in the staging,” said director David Carl Toulson. “What I’m trying to do is tell the operatic version of the story of Romeo and Juliet in as clear a way as possible and really highlight the beauty of this quintessential couple.”

Toulson is a prominent opera stage director who has worked with Catholic University before, most recently in last year’s production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” For Toulson, the impact of the show lies in the contrast between the beauty of the music and the love of the young couple, and the tragedy of their death.

Toulson said some of the principal ideas in the opera for him are predestination and love at first sight, themes that are often disregarded by modern audiences. “My feeling is, if Romeo and Juliet didn’t meet on the day they met, the story would have happened anyway and the same set of circumstances would have played themselves out a week later or a month later,” Toulson said.

This is not the first French opera presented by the music school, according to Rick Christman, assistant clinical professor of voice. In recent years, the school has performed Poulenc’s “La Voix Humaine” in the original French and the “Dialogue of the Carmelites” in English translation. However, “Romeo et Juliette” represents the school’s first effort at a full-scale grand opera sung in French.

Christman said the opera was chosen to challenge students and provide them with an opportunity to develop professional skills.

“The opera allows our students to develop themselves dramatically into characters with human emotions, which move from the joyous promise of first infatuations, through the thrill of marriage, the horrors of murder, and the tragedy of suicide,” Christman said. “Throughout the entire opera one must be part of a story that conveys the strength of a love that refuses to know boundaries. It is a highly demanding undertaking which, if done correctly, leaves all involved emotionally and physically drained at the final curtain.”

Both Christman and Toulson mentioned the beauty of the score as a major highlight of the opera. The CUA Symphony Orchestra will provide the music under the direction of Adam Turner, resident conductor of Virginia Opera and a CUA alumnus.

“It is one of the most beautiful love stories ever told and some of the most gorgeous music imaginable,” Toulson said. “Combining those two things creates a wonderfully exciting evening of opera.”

Performances will take place in Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, at 7:30 p.m. on March 15-16 and 2 p.m. on March 17. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for CUA alumni; $10 for seniors, faculty, and staff; and $5 for CUA students with ID.

There will be a preview performance on Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. with discounted ticket prices: $15 for general admission; $10 for CUA alumni; and $5 for seniors, faculty, staff, and CUA students with ID.

Tickets will be available online at music.cua.edu beginning Feb. 25 and can be purchased at the door.

MEDIA: To cover this production, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

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