Plácido Domingo conducted a fine first-night performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, with Ailyn Pérez and Andrea Shin. This is the first revival of Bartlett Sher’s production for La Scala, which opened at the Met on New Year’s Eve 2016. Shin went on in place of the ailing Charles Castronovo, himself engaged to replace Bryan Hymel, who has withdrawn from the run. Shin had us in the palm of his hand from his first aria, and impressed with assured stage presence and thrilling vocal quality. Pérez is a vivacious Juliette, with vibrant top notes and a gamut of emotions. Kwangchul Youn, Joshua Hopkins and Laurent Naouri are standouts, with Bogdan Volkov also impressive. As Romeo’s page mocking the Capulets, Karine Deshayes gave a lovely rendition, touching off the duels that take the lives of Mercutio and Tybalt.
Michael Yeargan’s tall set with tiers of balconies defines a central square on which most of the action takes place, with small changes creating Friar Laurence’s church, Juliette’s bedroom and the Capulets’ crypt. Catherine Zuber’s costumes update the story to the eighteenth-century – for no apparent reason, but without any adverse effect.
Having sung Romeo, Domingo is well-attuned to the nuances of Gounod’s music and he provides guidance for the singers while allowing the Orchestra to shine. Strings and harp introducing the balcony scene and a quartet of cellos setting the mood on the lovers’ wedding night are glorious, fine woodwind solos punctuate the arias and duets, and brass excels in dramatic passages.