To be honest, I was more impressed with Plácido Domingo's work on the podium than I expected to be. There was attention to dynamic nuance, and it had the great virtue of being emotionally immediate, dripping with romanticism, but also capable of reverential tenderness. Eroticism and suspense, however, I did not feel. There was surprisingly little foreboding. My predominant feeling about the lovers (and to judge by the audience giggles and sighs, I was not alone) was "Oh, they're so cute!" rather than "Oh, they're so doomed!" If this is fault, I'm not laying it at Domingo's door: the color-saturated production was also fairly doom-free (eclipse and Escher drawing notwithstanding) and the directing emphasized the lovers' youth, their astonished, unabashed delight in each other, their absolute absorption in their own emotional odyssey. The singing was of a fine standard. Julie Boulianne was a vocally confident Stephano, Lucas Meachem a dramatically assured Mercutio. I found his tone rather rough, but he sang strongly and inhabited the role well. Wendy White was her usual excellent self as the Nurse. Dwayne Croft sang Capulet with both authority and lyricism; he managed to make the character complex as well. (Confession: the moment of the night when I teared up was not at the end, but when Capulet holds the supposedly-dead Juliette in his arms and mourns her. He may treat her marriage like a transaction--it's the Renaissance--but after all, he's her daddy! Sniff!) Much to my delight, James Morris was Frère Laurent. He was in fine vocal form and the role seemed to suit his voice well; he shaped melodic lines well, and gave a dramatically nuanced portrayal.
Piotr Beczala was, vocally and dramatically, a sympathetic and persuasive Roméo (the fact that he's kind of adorable hurts, of course, not at all.) I could happily dwell on the dramatic details of his ardent yet easily abashed lover, but I'll give one example: when he first catches sight of Juliette, he is obviously, demonstratively enchanted, openly rapturous when she departs... but reflexively hides when she reappears, slumping down to make sure he's concealed while remaining visibly alert to her movements. Aww... I've been there, done that. His singing, also, was tender and stylish, with compelling forte outbursts where needed. I was a little anxious for his high notes, but he carried them all splendidly until the final duet, with a crack on the high C (quickly overcome.) A shame, but the rest of the performance was of such superlative quality that I didn't feel it was seriously marred. Hei-Kyung Hong was equally touching as Juliette, convincing both in girlish glee and the depths of teenage despair. Her voice may not be perfectly fresh, but it is both sweet and astonishingly agile. Her technique was so secure that Juliette's dizzying music never seemed like mere display, but radiantly expressive. So, with all these vocal achievements, and the fine acting from both the principals, why didn't it quite ignite for me? I'm not sure whether this is to be attributed to Gounod, the production, the conducting, the singing, or some combination of all these, but here's my speculation. Roméo and Juliette were touching and believable as a pair of adolescent lovers. But--even after the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, even after the wedding night, even in death--they never grew up.