“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 …
Ms. Damrau showed impressive range in her solo turns. At one point during the Capulet ball in Act I, after Juliette is introduced to Pâris, the young count her father wishes her to wed, she sings the light, waltzing “Je veux vivre” to a group of ogling young courtiers, explaining that she is too young and full of life to settle down. Ms. Damrau dispatched the aria with rosy sound, agile coloratura and girlish glee. But in Act IV, when the good-intentioned friar gives Juliette a potion that will make her appear dead to her family until Roméo can rescue her, Ms. Damrau summoned weighty vocal power and tragic intensity as she agonized over what to do, then forced herself to drink.
Ms. Damrau and Mr. Grigolo were especially inspired during the four duets that form the dramatic crux of Gounod’s opera. During the balcony scene duet (“O nuit divine”), they shifted subtly between passages of tremulous romantic abandon and affecting melodic intimacy.
Though this is Gounod’s finest opera, a more sophisticated score than “Faust,” the music can still seem a little precious and cloying, even during the crucial love duet on the couple’s only night of wedded bliss. But Ms. Damrau and Mr. Grigolo infused it with a winning combination of emotional nakedness and vocal refinement that brought out the subtleties and depths of the music.”
Anthony Tommasini – The New York Times
“With her glowing soprano, easy high notes, and superb acting, Ms. Damrau limned Juliette’s lighting-fast transformation from spirited girl to passionate woman. She was particularly moving in the steadfast sincerity and heartbreak of the bedroom scene, and her terror and determination in the poison aria were electrifying … when the two were together [Damrau and Grigolo], you believed completely in their union. Beautifully matched in the duets, they were a couple even when they were not singing: as when they held each other, kneeling, as Frère Laurent married them.”
Heidi Waleson – The Wall Street Journal
“… the protagonists, Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau, were poignant. Although he happens to be Italian and she German, both savoured and projected the essentially introspective French style, even in a house that accommodates 4,000 …
Still, when all is sung, sighed, roared, sobbed and mimed, this challenge must rise or fall with the artists portraying the young lovers. The star-crossed duo on duty here made the most of their dauntingly busy opportunities … Damrau traced the heroine’s emotional state exquisitely from girlish giddiness to tragic sacrifice, and sang with delicately shaded suavity. The two, moreover, demonstrated increasingly rapturous rapport.”
Martin Bernheimer – Financial Times
“The star-crossed lovers were sung by Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo who arrived at the Metropolitan Opera like intergalactic comets! Surpassing stardom, these two carried us into the New Year sizzling with a fervor rarely seen at the Metropolitan Opera. Sparks flew between the two in their first duet, Ange adorable… Their embers grew into a flame that intensified with every meeting.
Diana Damrau stepped into the shoes of the young Juliette for the first time. Her role debut brought an earnestness of character first apparent in her joyful aria, Je veux vivre! Her voice moved with ease through the scalar ornaments and her acting was fresh, soft and endearing – never forced. Damrau’s Poison aria was equally dazzling but with a maturity that carried the weight of the decision she had yet to make. Hope of seeing her exiled lover gave her the courage to plunge herself into the uncertain slumber.”
Nicholas Wiggins – Opera World
“The two singers offered performances of complementary excellence … The more cerebral Damrau conceived her Juliette in more sophisticated terms, her silvery voice darting and swooping like a startled butterfly. Nost notable were her pianissimo effects, aptly representing the teenaged heroine’s innocence and sweetness … she was always in motion. During her first act waltz song, the fluttering of her pale gold gown and long blonde hair would have done honor to any Disney princess.”
James Jorden – Observer
“Damrau was superb, as effective in the enchanting “Je veux vivre” (I want to live) when she first appears to the tragic final scene.”
Barry Bassis – The Epoch Times
Image: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera