Romeo and Juliet

Production photos courtesy of Opera Carolina

by Charles Gounod

Friday, April 29 – 7:30 PM

Saturday, April 30 – 7:30 PM

Presented at DeVos Performance Hall

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You know the romantic tale of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. When love meets fate, parting is such sweet sorrow. In this beautiful musical adaptation, Charles Gounod presents notable, swoon-worthy duets between the young lovers—just in time to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616. Presented in French with English titles.

Directed by Bernard Uzan      Conducted by Leonardo Vordoni
Scenic Design by Michael Baumgarten and Bernard Uzan           Lighting and Projection Design by Michael Baumgarten

Romeo and Juliet is a collaborative production between Opera Carolina, Virginia Opera, Toledo Opera, Lyric Opera Baltimore and Opera Grand Rapids.

Opera Grand Rapids Chorus | Grand Rapids Symphony

Run time: 3 hours



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Meet the Director

Bernard Uzan

Bernard Uzan, stage director

Bernard Uzan’s extensive background in the Performing Arts includes great achievement as a General Director, Artistic Director, Stage Director, Artist Manager, Set Designer, Librettist, Actor, and most recently, published Novelist and Internet Journalist.  As a stage director and producer, his 390 productions have appeared on the stages of more than 100 opera companies throughout the world in such cities as Buenos Aires, Caracas, Catania, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Mexico City, Miami, Monte Carlo, Palermo, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Santiago, Seattle, Zurich, Toronto, Vancouver, Erfurt, among many others. More.

Meet the Conductor

Maestro Leonardo Vordoni, conductor

“Maestro Leonardo Vordoni led a splendidly nuanced reading of verve and melting grace,” raved Opera News of his Chicago Opera Theatre début conducting Mosè in Egitto. Due to the accolades and respect earned through such performances, Maestro Vordoni is in high demand by leading opera companies throughout the world. In recent seasons, Maestro Vordoni made important débuts at Houston Grand Opera conducting I barbiere di Siviglia; Canadian Opera Company conducting La Cenerentola;  and Lyric Opera of Chicago conducting Le nozze di Figaro, where the Chicago Tribune wrote “Mindful of the singers’ needs, he infused the orchestral playing with crisp vitality and shapely phrasing.”  He also conducted L’elisir d’amore at Minnesota Opera and L’italiana in Algeri at Lyric Opera Kansas City. More.


Meet the Cast

Sarah Joy Miller, Juliet

Sarah Joy Miller, praised by The New York Times as “vivacious and fearless” is widely acknowledged as one of the industry’s foremost emerging talents. Ms. Miller began turning heads at her New York City Opera and BAM débuts to great critical acclaim singing the title role of Anna Nicole Smith in the Royal Opera House commissioned opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage. This season, Ms. Miller will perform at St. Bart’s music festival, the Bolshoi Theater, the Slovak Sinfonietta, and perform Juliette in Roméo et Juliette at Opera Grand Rapids and Baltimore Opera.

Highlights of previous seasons include: her début at Michigan Opera Theater singing Gilda in Rigoletto, and subsequent returns as Leïla in Pearl Fishers and a role début as Marguerite in Faust; Musetta in La bohème at New York’s Symphony Space; Micaëla in Carmen with New York Lyric Opera; performances of Carmina Burana with the Dallas Symphony; and Violetta in La traviata with Long Island Opera and Palm Beach Opera. More.

Jonathan Boyd, Romeo

Tenor Jonathan Boyd continually performs to great acclaim throughout Europe, North America and South America. Of his performance as Roméo, Opera News hailed “Boyd is a versatile lyric singer with a great future. His high notes rang without being strident…”  In the last two seasons alone, he made his Scottish National Opera début as the title role in Werther; his début with Opera di Firenzeas the role of Le Prince in L’amour des trois oranges; performed the role of Heurtebise in Orphée in his Pittsburgh Opera début; made his San Diego Opera début in Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick as Ishmael; performed Anatol in Vanessa with Opera Metz in France; sang the title role in Faust with Austin Lyric Opera; sang the title role of Candide at the Portland Opera; and Sam in Susannah with Florentine Opera. More.

Kimberly Sogioka, Stephano

Praised by Opera (UK) as “…the most opulent female sound on the stage…”young mezzo-soprano Kimberly Sogioka is drawing much attention as an exciting artist on opera and concert stages. A frequent collaborator with composers on new music projects, Ms. Sogioka created the role of Nurse 3 in the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera workshop of Michael Torke’s Senna, was a mezzo soloist in the Metropolitan Opera workshop of Scott Wheeler’s The Sorrow’s of Frederick, collaborated with Clint Borzoni in his operas Margot Alone in the Light and Antinous and Hadrian, and also with Stephen Andrew Taylor in scenes from his opera Paradises Lost with Operamission. More.

Kevin Langan, Friar Laurence

Kevin Langan has earned a sterling reputation as a leading performer in opera and concert with international audiences. Mr. Langan was the last protégé of Walter Legge, the legendary operatic record producer and promoter, and husband to Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. Under their sponsorship, he began his extensive career with a critically acclaimed recital at The Wigmore Hall in London.  His “deep, toffee-smooth voice and convincing interpretive abilities” (New York Times) have made him a favorite in opera companies throughout the world.  His career currently spans 36 years and over 1300 performances covering a vast repertoire of over 80 roles from early Baroque through 21st Century works, with the majority of his work in Händel, Mozart, and Verdi operas. Engagements this season include Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with Dallas Opera, and Rocco in Fidelio with The San Francisco Symphony. More.

Luis Alejandro Orozco

Luis Alejandro Orozco, Mercutio

Luis Alejandro Orozco has been hailed for his “imposing presence, both vocally and dramatically.” (Cincinnati Enquirer) This season he joins Washington National Opera for Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, performs the title role in Don Giovanni at Opera Western Reserve, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette at Austin Lyric Opera, Taddeo in L’italiana in Algeri at Opera Santa Barbara, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Syracuse Opera, and reprises his role in María de Buenos Aires for Opera Naples. More.

Ashraf Sewailam, Count Capulet

The New York Times hailed Ashraf Sewailam’s début at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall as a “stand out performance” and Opera News” Recently, in his début with New Zealand Opera as the assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto, he was described as “hard to better, both vocally and dramatically.” Last summer, he also performed Alidoro in La Cenerentola with Queensland Opera in Australia. Ashraf made his United States début in 2004 with Opera Colorado quickly becoming a company favorite.  He also performs frequently with San Diego Opera and Seattle Opera. Mr. Sewailam began his career as a Cairo Opera Company house soloist, was named a prize winner at the New Voices (Neue Stimmen) international competition in Gütersloh, Germany and was featured in the opening concert of the New Alexandria Library. More.

Daniel Curran

Daniel Curran, Tybalt

Daniel Curran is quickly gaining a reputation for his intensely intelligent performances on opera, theatre, and concert stages throughout the United States. Of a recent performance in the title role of La descente d’Orphée aux enfers with Gotham Chamber Opera, The New York Times hailed “as Orphée, his voice precise and penetrating, with careful diction and an affecting sense of seriousness. Mr. Curran ably met the demands of the role, which is written not for a booming modern tenor but for an haute-contre…simultaneously requiring intensity and preternatural poise.” This season’s engagements include Gilbert Griffiths in An American Tragedy at Glimmerglass Festival, Cassio in Otello and Orphée in Cegeste at Pittsburgh Opera, First Jew in Salome at Opera San Antonio, Florencia en el Amazonas at Washington National Opera; Tonio in La fille du régiment at Pittsburgh Opera and Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch in Spring with Composers, Inc. More.

Susan Nicely, Gertrude

Mezzo-Soprano Susan Nicely is known for her rich voice and vivid characterizations. Her highly acclaimed “lively comic presence” in roles such as Dame Marthe in Faust, Old Lady in Candide, Katasha in The Mikado, and Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, as well as dramatic portrayals in Cavalleria rusticana as Mamma Lucia, and The Ballad of Baby Doe as Mama McCourt make this character mezzo an “audience darling,” says the Austin American-Statesman. A house favorite with Dallas Opera, she was most recently seen in a highly-acclaimed performance as Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s one-woman opera, Bon Appetit! Proclaimed D Magazine: “Mezzo-soprano Susan Nicely…delivered the goods with a gorgeously textured, rich vocal timbre and a perfect touch of slapstick, expanding on and somewhat exaggerating Child’s endearing, always-laughed-off clumsiness.” More.

Casting, repertoire and event details are subject to change without notice or refunds, but are specified in good faith as accurate at the time of publication.



The libretto follows the story of Shakespeare’s play.
Verona, the 14th century.

Act I

Overture prologue:

A short chorus sets the scene of the rival families in Verona.

A masked ball in the Capulets’ palace

Tybalt talks to Pâris about Juliette, who appears with her father. Roméo, Mercutio, Benvolio and their friends enter, disguised, and Mercutio sings a ballad about Queen Mab, after which Juliette sings a joyful waltz song. The first meeting between Roméo and Juliette takes place, and they fall in love. But Tybalt re-appears and suspects that the hastily re-masked Roméo is his rival. While Tybalt wants immediate revenge, Capulet orders that the ball continue.

Act II

The Capulets’ garden

After Roméo’s page Stephano has helped his master gain access, he reveals the two young lovers exchanging their vows of love.


Scene 1: Laurent’s cell

Roméo and Juliette, accompanied by Gertrude, go to the cell, and the wedding takes place. Laurent hopes that reconciliation between the houses of the Montagus and the Capulets may thus take place.

Scene 2: a street near Capulet’s palace

Stephano sings to attract the occupants into the street. Gregoire and Stephano skirmish as men from each family appear. The duel is first between Tybalt and Mercutio, who falls dead, and then between Roméo, determined to avenge his comrade, and Tybalt. Tybalt is killed by Roméo, who is banished by the Duke.

Act IV

Juliette’s room at dawn

Roméo and Juliette are together and, after a long duet, Roméo departs for exile. Juliette’s father comes to remind her of Tybalt’s dying wish for Juliette to marry Count Pâris. The friar gives Juliette a draught which will cause her to sleep, so as to appear as if dead and, after being laid in the family tomb, it is planned that Roméo will awaken her and take her away. [A ballet scene in the grand hall of the palace was inserted at this point.]

Act V

Juliette’s tomb

Roméo breaks into the tomb after having taken poison because he believes that Juliette is dead. When she awakes from the friar’s potion, the lovers’ last duet is heard before the poison takes effect on Roméo. As her bridegroom weakens Juliette stabs herself, to be united with her lover in death.

About the Composer

Charles Gounod

Charles Gounod

Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, best known for his Ave Maria, based on a work by Bach, as well as his opera Faust. Gounod was born in Paris, the son of a pianist mother and an artist father. His mother was his first piano teacher. Under her tutelage, Gounod first showed his musical talents. Gounod wrote his first opera, Sapho, in 1851, at the urging of a friend of his, the singer Pauline Viardot; it was a commercial failure. He had no great theatrical success until Faust (1859), derived from Goethe. Although it took a while to achieve popularity, it became one of the most frequently staged operas of all time, with no fewer than 2,000 performances of the work having occurred by 1975 at the Paris Opéra alone. More.


Composition and Performance History

Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet) was first performed at the Théâtre Lyrique (Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial du Châtelet), Paris on 27 April 1867. This opera is notable for the series of four duets for the main characters and the waltz song “Je veux vivre” for the soprano.

Behind the scenes there were difficulties in casting the lead tenor, and Gounod was said to have composed the last act twice, but after the public general rehearsal and first night it was hailed as a major success for the composer. Its success was aided by the presence of dignitaries in Paris for the Exhibition, several of whom attended performances. A parody soon appeared at the Théâtre Déjazet, entitled Rhum et eau en juillet (Rum and Water in July). The opera entered the repertoire of the Opéra-Comique on 20 January 1873 where it received 391 performances in 14 years. More.