The IU Opera Theater’s production of "Roméo et Juliette" has a lot to offer in a single evening of entertainment. The lushly dramatic music of Charles Gounod has choruses, dance sequences, arias and lovers’ duets. It’s a visually striking new production with C. David Higgins cleverly deployed, varied and colorful sets and costumes. The base palate of reds dominates, with pure white, soft blue and dark black for accents. Michael Schwandt’s lighting varies from the most subtle effects to boldly dramatic spotlighting.
Guest director Michael Ehrman has staged plenty of action in "Roméo et Juliette" as he integrated the fight choreography of Robert Johansen and the dance choreography of Jennifer Adam. The drama ranged from the massed crowd scenes to the tender moments of Roméo and Juliette’s awakening love. Bold touches alternated with neatly thought out bits of active theater. There were even significant stops for some near slapstick that had humorously bawdy moments.
Saturday evening’s cast featured Brian Arreola as the ardent Roméo. His Juliette,Betsy Uschkratt had some lovely moments as her voice varied from the dramatic to the wistful and even seemed to float through some passages. Kory Bickel was all action and fun as the mercurial Mercutio, from his obvious joy in the Queen Mab aria to his phallic flaunting of his fencing foil in the tragic duel. Ulises DuBon was darkly menacing as a bit of a heavy, Tybalt. Heng Xia was perky in the trouser role of Roméo’s page Stephano. Benjamin Gelfand sang well though he takes quite a beating as one of the Capulet henchmen.
Conductor David Effron led a performance that was always alert to the variety and color of Gounod’s orchestration. The instrumental ensemble for "Roméo et Juliette" is a large one and its sound did sometimes engulf the smaller voices in the more intricate moments. However, the supertitles were always available for those moments and the show never flagged in its rhythmic or dramatic propulsion.
The IU Opera Theater’s production of "Roméo et Juliette" has its final performances this Friday and Saturday night in the Musical Arts Center.
You can hear an interview with Roméo et Juliette on our Arts Interviews page .