Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers from Verona who stepped in our collective imagination like if they really existed (the city of Verona has provided Juliet with a home and a balcony for this use) have often inspired opera musicians. More than Gonoud, you can't forget I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini, Giulietta e Romeo by Riccardo Zandonai, Nicola Antonio Zingarelli and Nicola Vaccaj. Out of curiosity: unlike Shakespeare's tragedy, which sees Juliet waking up from the poison effect on Romeo's lifeless body, in Gonoud's opera the two lovers have just enough time to say goodbye to each other before dying. Death will be death but maybe a little less bitter...
Synopsis Roméo et Juliette
At a masked ball at the Capulet palace, in Verona. Among the guests, there're Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, and her husband-to-be, Paris. Roméo, a Montague, the rival family, followed by Mercutio and his friends, all masked, arrives at the party. Roméo, oppressed by premonitory dreams, feels awkward staying in the palace. Mercutio mocks him reminding him Queen Mab, the mistress of dreams, is often a liar. As soon as Roméo sees Juliette, who's the Capulet's young daughter, falls in love with her. Gertrude, Juliette's nurse, praises Paris' good qualities to the girl, but she repeats she doesn't feel ready for marriage yet. When Roméo finds himself finally alone with Juliette, he reveals his feelings for her, but he's soon discovered by Tybalt. Roméo is immediately dragged out by Mercutio while Juliette's father calms Tybalt down and exhorts his guests to keep dancing.
Later that night, Roméo has fled his friends to get in Juliette's backyard. Juliette appears at the balcony, the two exchange words of love but they are interrupted by a group of servants who suspect an intruder to be in the palace. Gertrude set them on the wrong track covering the lovers, so they can keep talking. They promise everlasting love to each other and when Gertrude's voice calls out for Juliette, they say goodbye till the following day.
Roméo appears at Friar Laurence's cell and tells him about his love for Juliette. The priest agrees to marry the young lovers in the hope that their union will end the feud between their families. He celebrates the wedding in Gertrude's presence. Meanwhile, Roméo's page, Stéphano, sings a mocking song which provokes a fight with Gregorio and other Capulet servants. Roméo tries to contain the fight but Tybalt wants revenge. Mercutio is challenged by Tybalt, they duel and Mercutio gets killed, whereupon Roméo, enraged, kills Tybalt. The Duke of Verona is drowned by the fight and when he discovers what's happened, he banishes Roméo from the city.
At dawn in Juliette's bedroom, the lovers spend their last night together before Roméo leaves for exile. The morning birds announce it's time to say goodbyes. Capulet and Friar Laurence greet Juliette to get her ready to marry Paris that very day. The priest, once he's alone with her, gives her a sleeping potion that will make her appear dead, to avoid the wedding. He promises that he will make sure Romèo knows about the plan so they can flee together. Juliette drinks the potion, and during the celebration, she collapses, making everyone believe she's dead. Friar Laurence discovers his message to Roméo wasn't delivered because the messenger has been wounded by a Capulet. ACT V Roméo, believing Juliette to be dead, arrives at her tomb. After a last kiss to his love, he takes poison, only to see Juliette awaking. They throw into each others' arms but it's a short happiness. Roméo dies because of the poison, Juliette understanding what he's done, grasps his dagger and stabs herself. The lovers die praying for God's forgiveness.