There are no puns to be found in composer Charles Gounod’s version of Verona as there are in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Multiple minor characters have been trimmed away to focus on the main couple, adding drama to their romance. Many of Shakespeare’s iconic lines remain, with music added to them as they stand. “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo,” “Goodnight, goodnight, parting is such sweet sorrow” and even Mercutio’s iconic “Queen Mab” soliloquy remain as they were in the original play.
The play was performed at the Musical Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10-11. “Romeo et Juliette” will be performed at Clowes Memorial Hall on Nov. 17 and 18. Tickets can be purchased on the Butler Arts and Event Center website.
“It did follow the storyline a lot because I read it three years ago, so I could definitely see a lot of similarities,” Ruth Sherer, an Indiana high school student in the audience, said. “I feel like the whole thing was just better than the play is because of how theatric it was, emotional, expressive, it just put it into life.”
Director Katherine M. Carter said that Gounod’s changes added a new dimension to Shakespeare’s work, citing changes from the lengthening of the party scene to the ending. Unlike Shakespeare’s original, in Gounod’s version, Juliet wakes up after Romeo drinks the poison, allowing the lovers to briefly reunite before dying in each other’s arms.
“What makes the Gounod adaptation special is how he has taken the Shakespearean play and turned it into a French grand opera,” Carter said. “It feels like a new lens on the Romeo and Juliet that we know and love from Shakespeare.”
Despite the changes, Carter said that the essence of Shakespeare’s play remains. For example, she said, there are still plenty of swordfights, blood and battles.
“It was a pretty easy transition from the Shakespearean play to the opera because what I enjoy about the play is the relationships and how they interact with one another,” Carter said. “It was very fun to rediscover the relationships through the lens of Gounod’s music and I enjoyed the unique challenge of the French version of Shakespeare's words and getting to do it with this incredible cast.”
Because “Romeo and Juliet” is such a classic story, the IU Opera and Ballet Theater felt it was perfect to take to Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis, Catherine Compton, managing director of the IU Opera, said. The IU Opera receives charitable contributions from foundations such as the Allen Whitehill Clowes Foundation, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and the Indianapolis Foundation. Compton said that because of these donations, IU Opera has a responsibility to take their shows to other parts of Indiana. They have previously partnered with Clowes in the past to make this happen.
“Our shared humanity is revealed in the music and the language,” Compton said. “Hopefully, we haven't experienced something as traumatic a story as Romeo and Juliet, but anyone who has fallen in love or experienced jealousy or been a part of a conflict can draw out lines from the text and from the libretto and meditate with that.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Katherine M. Carter's name. This story has also been updated to reflect the opera will be performed in Indianapolis.