(Anthony Tommasini’s article appeared The New York Times, 1/1/17.)
During a recent interview, the German soprano Diana Damrau and the Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo tried to describe the chemistry they have together onstage. Reading their comments, I worried that they might be overthinking things. After all, they first worked together only last year, appearing as the lovers in Massenet’s “Manon” at the Metropolitan Opera. The couple thrilled audiences and critics with the smoldering intensity they emitted. So this is a new relationship. In talking about their instinctive connection might they risk making it self-conscious?
Not to fear. On Saturday night for its New Year’s Eve gala, the Met introduced a new production of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” starring Mr. Grigolo and Ms. Damrau as Shakespeare’s star-crossed adolescent lovers. In scene after scene, these exciting and charismatic artists disappeared into their characters, emboldening each other to sing with white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism.
The production, by the director Bartlett Sher, his seventh for the Met, updates the setting from Renaissance to 18th-century Verona, presenting an essentially traditional staging with some surreal touches that seem a little forced. Still, to whatever degree Mr. Sher shaped the courageous performances of his stars, and this very strong cast, he deserves much credit.