The Saltworks Opera production of Vincenzo Bellini’s “Roméo et Juliette” (i capuleti e i montecchi) starring Christine Lyons and Megan Chase as the classical tale’s star-crossed adolescent lovers was a nuanced and richly textured performance that established Director Anna Sterrett as one of our region’s most innovative and provocative voices. In scene after scene, beautiful and charismatic artists, some of the top and rising new talent on the American stage, carried the audience away with a performance soaked with sensuality and impassioned lyricism.
Following the triumph of her production of “A Most Happy Fella”, director Anna Sterrett relies on the original tale, yet through set and costumes, creates an ambiguous setting that could be anytime, anywhere. Some surreal touches, such as corrugated backdrops created an aura of being suspended in time and place.
The show, above all was shaped by the brilliant and courageous performances of her stars, an all around very strong cast.
Christine Lyons as Giulietta was spellbinding, and showed impressive range in her solo turns. After meeting Romeo in her room and they pledge their love for each other, Ms. Lyons’ voice, again highlighting her and range and interpretation, is light, waltzing and playful, singing the aria with rosy, agile coloratura. In short, Lyons is exquisite.
As Romeo, mezza-soprano Megan Chase’s rich voice transported the audience–Romeo’s love for this beautiful girl, as in the aria sung in Giulietta’s bedroom, is filled with subdued romantic phrases, dark colorings and an emotional vulnerability. As the impassioned Romeo, Chase filled the character with effortless athleticism emboldened by teenage energy.
Andrew W. Potter as Capellio established himself as a premier Basso, a bass vocalist to be reckoned with. Each phrase and pass was filled with young, perfect and absolute hate, and a yearning for revenge and blood. The deep, beautiful timber and resonance of Potter’s voice shook the audience, leaving them trembling as the Capuleti hungered for war and revenge.
As Tebaldo, the short tempered antagonist to Romeo, Andrew Ellis cemented his position as a tenor on the rise. With youthful arrogance and sass, Ellis’ dynamic, bright voice captured every essence and filled the room with a vibrant sound that left the audience awestruck. His acting perfectly accompanied his voice, depicting the longstanding animosities between families.
Local favorite Richard Williams, just off his brilliant performance as Tony in “A Most Happy Fella” was flawless as the gentle Lorenzo, aid to Guiletta. His dominant work as a bass soloist for the Orchestra of the Eastern Shore was on full display. Always elegant, in this role Williams shined as a natural story teller, the preternatural tone and control of his voice resonated with potency and line, echoing his ethos, and a perfect pitch that foreshadowed the end he understood would eventually come to the doomed lovers.
The choristers, made up of long time Shore favorites such as Joann Molera and Croxton Gordan, were perfect for the slightly abstract, sometimes surreal touches of Ms. Sterrett. Understated in black and white shirts and trousers, in each scene they sit and stand with faces forward, stern and motionless, as they intone the music.
For those of us that have always loved Anna Sterrett as a performer, we are filled with excitement as we watch her and Saltworks grow into a regional powerhouse. “Roméo et Juliette” establishes Ms. Sterrett and this company as the next big movement in modern theater.