Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
by Georg Benda (1722-1795)
A Singspiel in three acts
Libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, after Shakespeare and Christian Felix Weisse
Sung in an English translation by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray
First performed on 25 September 1776 at the Hoftheater in the Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
|Laura, Juliet’s confidante||Ilona Domnich|
|Capulet, Juliet’s father||Adrian Powter|
|Lorenzo, Capulet family chaplain||Ian Priestley|
|Francesco, Romeo’s friend||Claire Benjamin|
|Capulet family mourners||
Alice de Ville
This production is generously supported by
Deep rivalry and animosity exists between the Montagues and the Capulets, noble families of Verona. Attending incognito a masked ball at the palace of the Capulets, Romeo Montague falls in love with the young daughter of the household, Juliet. In secret they are married by Friar Laurence, the Capulet family confessor: naively they hope their marriage will bring the family feud to an end. Soon after the wedding a street brawl results in the murder of Romeo’s friend Mercutio, and Romeo in anger takes revenge and kills Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who has already issued him with a written challenge. Romeo is banished to Mantua by the Duke.
In her room as it approaches midnight, Juliet impatiently awaits Romeo, distraught that he may already have left for exile. Her friend and confidante Laura attempts to comfort her. Arguing about the motives of Juliet’s aunt Camilla, Juliet unkindly suggests that Laura also may not be trustworthy. Laura protests her utter honesty and faithfulness, and Juliet retracts.
Romeo arrives but reminds Juliet that he must leave for Mantua. Juliet trembles at the prospect and has premonitions of death. Romeo encourages her to have hope, but Juliet is inconsolable and suggests they should commit suicide whilst happy in a final embrace. Romeo calms her. The arrival of dawn forces them to part.
Laura reflects on her friend’s healing sleep, but is disturbed by Juliet’s father, Capulet, who orders her to awaken his daughter. Suspicious that her disconsolate tears may not be caused by her cousin’s death, he fears that she could be in love with Romeo. He resolves to marry her to the Count Paris, but is also anxious to help her as a loving father. Her complete dismay at his proposal and her refusal to entertain such a marriage causes him to fly into a fury and he threatens to disown her.
Laura returns to help her friend, and warns her of a plot hatched by Camilla which could result in her incarceration and forced marriage. Friar Laurence arrives and suggests a solution to Juliet’s dilemma: a sleeping draught will make her appear dead and, once laid in the family vault, Romeo will be able to rescue her and take her away for ever. Left alone, Juliet has visions of the horrors of the tomb and of Tybalt’s vengeful ghost. Nevertheless, for Romeo’s sake, she drinks Laurence’s potion.
Family mourners, including Laura and Capulet, weep bitterly as the body of Juliet is laid in the vault close to the corpse of Tybalt.
Romeo is greeted by his servant Francesco who has followed him on the road to Mantua to tell him of Juliet’s death. He resolves to enter the tomb to bid a final farewell to his bride, and then to kill himself. As he is about to stab himself, Juliet revives and they sing a rapturous duet of joy. They are overheard by Laurence, who warns them to stay hidden in the tomb. He persuades Capulet to swear that he would accept Romeo Montague as his son-in-law if only his daughter could be restored to life. Immediately the fiction is revealed to be truth. True to his word, Capulet embraces Romeo amidst general rejoicing.
The Independent, 20 September 2007
The Oxford Times, 31 August 2007
Love and death…
Manchester Evening News, 25 July 2007
Music and Vision
a real gem