University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

09/11/2022 1:00 pm
09/11/2022 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Charles Gounod (1818-1893) vies with Guiseppe Verdi as the all-time most popular opera composer. Faust in its original 1859 comédie lyrique version I broadcast on Sunday, June 10, 2021 (Palazzetto Bru Zane CDs/Rousset/Les Talens Lyriques). The 1869 grand opera revision of Faust became an international hit. The Met mounted so many productions of Faust that people dubbed the Met the "House of Faust."

Gounod's Roméo et Juliette (1867) was also enormously popular, and it has been frequently recorded. I have broadcast it in one or another release on disc four times on this program: Sundays in 1985, 1988, 2010, and most recently on Sunday, April 14, 2013. On that last occasion I made use of one of Sony Classical's CD releases of broadcast airtapes made live in performance at the Metropolitan Opera. The mono or early stereo sound on these old tape reels from the Met's archives was digitally remastered for compact disc issue in the early twenty first century. This particular release documents a performance of Roméo et Juliette given on February 1, 1947.

These old tapes captured for posterity what some consider to be the Golden Age of opera singing in the first half of the twentieth century. Emile Cooper conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The incomparable Swedish tenor Jussi Björling is heard as Romeo opposite Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayao as Juliet, a role in which she specialized. To the delight of audiences, Björling and Sayao were frequently paired in Met productions in the 1940s. Savor this historic 1947 Romeo and Juliette a second time this afternoon.