This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death in 1616 of the man who is almost universally recognised as the all-time greatest dramatist and writer in the English language – William Shakespeare. From the seventeen century onwards, Shakespeare’s writing has inspired other works of literature, as well as theatre, cinema, and opera plots and librettos. The Royal Opera House Muscat joins hundreds of other theatres around the world in honouring the great poet and playwright with commemorative works. ROHM’s new 2016-17 Season opens with an opera by nineteenth-century French composer, Charles Gounod, based on Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, which has become the world’s most celebrated love story.
Completed in 1859, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet) is renowned not only for the composer’s wonderful dramatic interpretation, but also for his sumptuously expressive music; and in particular, the beautiful duets which establish a deep emotional connection between the two young lovers. The romantic beauty and compelling emotionality of the opera’s four love duets contribute to the reputation of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the best operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
The leading roles will be sung by two rising stars, tenor, Jean-François Borras and soprano Nino Machaidze. Jean-François Borras is a twenty-first century tenor who began his career just ten years ago with a series of stellar debuts in prominent roles. Borras has performed on the world’s most important stages, including on-going appearances at top venues such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Now increasingly recognised as one the greatest tenors of his generation, Jean-François Borras is an acclaimed performer of opera's most popular tenor roles such as Alfredo in La Traviata and Rodolfo in La Bohème.
Among the famous characters that Borras frequently plays is the hero of Massenet’s opera, Werther, a work which is familiar to Muscat audiences from last season. Borras famously substituted at the last minute for global superstar Jonas Kauffman in Werther at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera before an audience of 4,000, which would be a daunting prospect for any tenor. Incredibly, Borras immediately lifted the spirits of an initially disappointed audience with a fresh, youthful interpretation and the bright timbre and radiant lyricism of his voice, which is more like that of Pavarotti than Kauffman. Known for his ability to respond with convincing intimacy in duets, Borras is especially well-suited to the role of Roméo with a beautiful voice and a passionate young lover’s urgency that sweeps the audience into the action.
When Nino Machaidze sang Juliette at the prestigious Salzburg Opera Festival in the summer of 2008, she created a sensation. The brilliant Georgian soprano was just twenty-five years old and about to become an international star. She was standing in for the world-famous soprano, Anna Netrebko and had mastered the role with only a month’s notice. Since that stunning triumph, Machaidze has performed Juliette with ever-increasing finesse on the great stages of Vienna, Los Angeles, Verona, Brussels, Milan and London – and now she comes to Muscat.
When she is referred to as the “Angelina Jolie of Opera” because of a striking physical resemblance, or compared with Anna Netrebko because of the superb quality of her voice, Machaidze says that naturally she feels flattered, but emphatically declares, “I am Nino Machaidze!” She has sung with luminaries such as Plácido Domingo and José Diego Flores and is renowned for her virtuosic interpretations of opera’s greatest heroines, such as Violetta in La Traviata, Marie in La Fille du Regiment, the title roles in Lucia di Lamermoor, and Carmen, Mimi in La Boheme and Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore. It’s a magnificent, soul-searing experience to hear Machaidze sing Juliette’s intensely passionate, heart-bursting aria, “Je veux vivre!” – “I want to live!” This greatly loved, life-affirming aria represents ‘all things bright and beautiful’ in the world of opera.
Romeo and Juliet is masterfully performed by the prestigious Opéra de Monte-Carlo with the orchestra under the baton of award-winning conductor, Laurent Campellone whose repertoire includes a fine interpretation of more than fifty lyric scores from the world’s greatest operas.