Roméo et Juliette

Roméo et Juliette
Opera by Charles Gounod
Roméo et Juliette (Gounod) Act2 London 1867 (Patti, Mario) NGO4p32.jpg
Adelina Patti and Mario in the title roles, Act 2 in a London production of 1867
Based onRomeo and Juliet
by Shakespeare
27 April 1867 (1867-04-27)

Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet) is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. It 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.[1]

Performance history

Gounod's opera Faust had become popular at the Théâtre Lyrique since its premiere in 1859 (it was performed over 300 times between 1859 and 1868) and this led to a further commission from the director Carvalho.[2] 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).[2]

Jean de Reszke as Roméo
(Paris, 1888)

The opera entered the repertoire of the Opéra-Comique on 20 January 1873 (with Deloffre and Carvalho returning to their roles from the premiere), where it received 391 performances in 14 years.[3] On 28 November 1888 Roméo et Juliette transferred to the Paris Opéra, with Adelina Patti and Jean de Reszke in the leading roles.[3] The opera was first seen in London (with Patti and Mario) on 11 July 1867 and in New York (with Minnie Hauk) at the Academy of Music on 15 November of that year.[4]

In 1912, the opera was recorded complete for the first time with Agustarello Affre as Roméo, Yvonne Gall as Juliette, Henri Albers as Capulet and Marcel Journet as Laurent.

The opera is frequently staged by the world's opera houses.[5]

Critical reception

Sutherland Edwards, music critic of the St. James's Gazette, wrote the following about the opera following its first London performance in 1867:

Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, in which the composer is always pleasing, though seldom impressive, might be described as the powerful drama of Romeo and Juliet reduced to the proportions of an eclogue for Juliet and Romeo. One remembers the work as a series of very pretty duets, varied by a sparkling waltz air for Juliet, in which Madame Patti displays that tragic genius, which belongs to her equally, with the highest capacity for comedy. [Vaccai's] Romeo e Giulietta is an admirable opera for Giulietta; in which Romeo is not forgotten.[6]


RoleVoice type[7]Premiere Cast, 27 April 1867
(Conductor: Adolphe Deloffre)[8]
JuliettesopranoMarie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho
Roméo, son of MontaguetenorPierre-Jules Michot
Frère LaurentbassJean Cazaux
Mercutio, Romeo's friendbaritoneAuguste-Armand Barré
Stéphano, Romeo's pagemezzo-soprano,
(trouser role)
Joséphine Daram
Count CapuletbassEugène Troy
Tybalt, Lady Capulet's nephewtenorJules-Henri Puget
Gertrude, Juliet's nursemezzo-sopranoEléonore Ragaine-Duclos
The DukebassÉmile Wartel
Pâris, a young countbaritoneLaveissière
Grégorio, Capulet's servantbaritoneÉtienne Troy
Benvolio, Montague's nephewtenorPierre-Marie Laurent
Frère JeanbassNeveu
Male and female retainers and kinsmen of the Houses of Capulet and Montague, maskers


The libretto follows the story of Shakespeare's play.

Act 1

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 2

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.

Act 3

Press illustration of Act 3, scene 2, as staged in the original production

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 4

Juliet'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 5

Juliet'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.[8]


  1. ^ Huebner S. The Operas of Charles Gounod. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  2. ^ a b Walsh TJ. Second Empire Opera – The Théâtre-Lyrique Paris 1851-1870. John Calder Ltd, London, 1981.
  3. ^ a b Wolff, Stéphane. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique 1900–1950. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  4. ^ Kobbé, Gustave. Kobbé's Complete Opera Book, ed Harewood. Putnam, London & New York, 1954.
  5. ^ "Performances, Romeo et Juliette by city". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  6. ^ Quoted in Rosenthal 1958, p. 150.
  7. ^ Voice types are from Huebner 1992, p. 31.
  8. ^ a b "Roméo et Juliette". Retrieved 17 September 2018.

External links

Media files used on this page

Jean de Reszke as Roméo c1888 by Benque et Cie - Klein 1903 p257.jpg
Tenor Jean de Reszke as Romeo in Gounod's opera Roméo et Juliette, as presented by the Paris Opera on 28 November 1888 in its first performance at the Palais Garnier
Press illustration of Act3 of 'Roméo et Juliette' by Gounod 1867 - Gallica.jpg
Press illustration of Act 3, scene 2, of the opera Roméo et Juliette as performed in the premiere at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris on 24 April 1867
Roméo et Juliette (Gounod) Act2 London 1867 (Patti, Mario) NGO4p32.jpg
Adelina Patti and Mario in Act 2 of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette in the first London production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which was first presented on 11 July 1867
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