Drama in Verona

The lovers from Verona, Romeo and Juliet, have returned to us after an eight-year hiatus. Opera Circle first presented this tragic love story in 2001. The current production was performed twice: November 6 and 8, 2009, at St. Stanislaus Church. The story that inspired Shakespeare has taken on countless forms all over the world—after all, everyone knows it. It has been presented as a theatrical drama as well as in musical versions by numerous composers. Prokofiev wrote an ingenious ballet, Tchaikovsky an orchestral poem, while Gounod and Bellini created operatic versions.

Bellini’s style stands out through a remarkable sense of melody, and the works which he created are full of nuances that heighten the power of expression.

Opera Circle took great care in preparing this version of Romeo and Juliet, originally entitled I Capuleti e i Montecchi in the Italian, bringing in conductor Andrea Raffanini from Italy with the sole purpose of leading this production. A renowned Bellini specialist, he came from the city of Milan, famous for its operatic tradition: many talented composers, singers, and conductors hail from Italian cities, and to this day La Scala in Milan is considered the operatic capitol of the world.

The forty-person orchestra, organized by Wanda Sobieska, sounded excellent, marked in particular by notable solos for cello and clarinet. Maestro Raffanini, full of vigor and understanding for the music of Bellini, was a fantastic leader for the ensemble.

Likewise, the soloists and chorus delighted the audience. The “silver soprano,” as Donald Rosenberg termed it in his Plain Dealer review, of Dorota Sobieska  (Juliet) melded in perfect harmony with the mezzo-soprano of Emily Righter (Romeo), who came from Pennsylvania, having great of the role, as she had previously performed it at another opera theater. Not only did this young and charming woman sing well, but she was also a terrific actor, assuming the guise of the romantic, boyish Romeo. The remaining soloists—David Sadlier, Ray Liddle, and Allan Mosher—completed the stellar cast of this memorable production.

It is truly difficult to overestimate the value of the work carried out by Jacek Sobieski and Dorota Sobieska for the lovers of opera in Cleveland. They enable us to experience core works of the repertoire that are rarely presented by other organizations nationwide. The ambitious realization of this intelligent choice of repertoire is the greatest strength of the group and brings great joy to its audience.

Elzbieta Ulanowska
Translated by Wanda Sobieski

Forum, 12/2009