Lyric Opera Celebrating the Bard in Brand New Production of Gounod's Romeo & Juliet



Lyric Opera of Chicago will celebrate the inimitable magic of the Bard in a new-to-Chicago production of audience-favorite Romeo and Juliet created by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher this winter.

Gounod’s 19th-century interpretation of Shakespeare’s immortal classic young-love tragedy will be sung in French with projected English texts, starring stars two ardent Romeos, Joseph Calleja (6 performances, Feb. 22-Mar. 8) and Eric Cutler (3 performances, Mar. 11-19), wooing the fair Juliet, portrayed by Chicago favorite, soprano Susanna Phillips. Joshua Hopkins is Romeo’s irreverent best pal Mercutio, and Christian Van Horn portrays the well-intentioned Friar Laurence, who makes a terrible mess of trying to mend the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. Lyric’s production also features Marianne Crebassa/Stephano (Lyric debut) and Deborah Nansteel/Juliet’s nurse Gertrude (Lyric debut).

Sher’s work made quite an impression on Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, whose enthusiasm about bringing the new production to Lyric Opera for the first time was quite evident at Lyric’s season announcement earlier last year. “Bartlett Sher will be at Lyric to direct this fantastic production, which I originally saw in Salzburg and which was then presented with great success at La Scala,” says Freud. “…this romantic French opera is a wonderful piece for all audiences, and it’s a work we haven’t done since 2006/07. We are all very excited to be presenting it at Lyric.”
Freud also notes that “Joseph Calleja and Eric Cutler have each had great successes internationally and at Lyric. Susanna Phillips has been doing fantastic work in Europe and the U.S. since she left Lyric's Ryan Opera Center – and she actually made her role debut when she went on as Juliet on short notice in our previous production while still in the ensemble.”

Of special note, Freud adds, is the Lyric debut of the distinguished fight director B.H. Barry, whose work has been seen in more than three dozen Broadway productions, at the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company, and in numerous films. Barry has served as fight director for Romeo and Juliet nearly 60 times, for stage and screen productions.

Emmanuel Villaume will conduct this new production and Michael Black will serve as chorus master.

The production serves as a part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a yearlong international arts festival commemorating the quadricentennial of William Shakespeare’s death. Several cultural organizations are presenting more than 800 performances, exhibitions, and other events celebrating Shakespeare throughout the year.

Lyric Opera will produce a new production of Gounod's popular opera, Romeo and Juliet, as part of the Shakespeare 400 Chicago international festival celebrating the quadricentennial of the Bard's death (photo courtesy of Lyric Opera).