The Lyric Opera’s Dazzling “Roméo et Juliette” is a Night Divine

Full cast by Don Ipock for Lyric Opera of Kansas City

How do you stage the most famous balcony scene of all time? The most tragic love story? A line as iconic as “a rose by any other name”?

You make them bigger to life.

The Lyric Opera has done just that with Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” in a stunning production that is not to be missed.

Andriana Chuchman by Don Ipock for Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Start with the rose: Matthew Ozawa’s bold production design is daringly fresh and stunningly gorgeous, a dream sequence of vivid images that imprint on the eye and bloom in the mind. He is a master of movement, with crisp, dramatic staging that keeps the action exciting and clear. But most of all, he is a poet, concentrating the metaphorical riches of the text into indelible visual motifs that make the 400-year-old story feel contemporary and the lushly romantic score feel timeless.

Cue the star-crossed lovers: With a pure and nimble soprano matched by her physical agility and beauty, Andriana Chuchman makes a marvelous Juliette. Her sparkling account of the notoriously demanding “Je veux vivre dans le rêve” perfectly expresses the sheltered teen’s excitement for life. Chuchman winningly portrays Juliette’s journey from this innocence to the poignance of the truly affecting last act.

Making his debut as Roméo, Ben Bliss portrays a brash and impetuous “Bros before Sopranos” dude who roams the streets with his posse (Johnathan McCullough as Mercutio, Angelo Silva as Benvolio), looking for action, quick to offense and free with the sword.

Bliss excels at action, coming into his own in the fatal duel with Juliette’s antagonistic cousin Tybalt (a very strong Benjamin Ruiz). But he is equally convincing as passionate lover, particularly on the melting “Leve-toi soleil.”

Ben Bliss by Don Ipock for Lyric Opera of Kansas City

In fact, the entirety of the lovers’ night — the “nuit divine” — is flawless, a triumph of artistry. Ozawa’s brilliantly inventive balcony and bed perfectly frame Chuchman and Bliss’s ardent teen tumbling and tender exchanges on “Nuit d’hyménée.” Little wonder there was audible sighing in the audience.

Nicholas Newton gives rich gravitas to the role of Frère Laurent while Deanna Ray Eberhart is a warm and indulgent presence as Juliette’s nurse Gertrude. Lyric Opera Resident Artist Christine Boddicker shines in the small but dynamic trouser role of Stéphano. Gounod’s score is energized by Conductor Christopher Allen’s lively orchestra. The opera’s one major liberty with the play grants the young lovers the gift of a last moment together, making the final act truly a parting of sweet sorrow.

Don Ipock for Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Local Note: With recent major roles at the Opéra National de Paris, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Santa Fe Opera, and winner of The Metropolitan Opera’s 2021 Beverly Sills Award, Ben Bliss is a rising star on the world stage. But to Kansas City audiences, his strongest credential may be his Prairie Village upbringing as son of editorial cartoonist Bob Bliss long-time Lyric Chorus member Judy Bliss and, as well as brother of Becky of the alt-folk trio Barnaby Bright.

Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Roméo et Juliette
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Friday, March 15, 2024, 7:30PM
Sunday, March 17, 2024, 2:00PM

Grace Suh

Grace Suh's work has received awards from the Edward F. Albee Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts USC Arts Journalism Fellowship, Hedgebrook Writers in Residence Program, Djerassi Resident Artist Program and Charlotte Street Foundation.

  1. Michelle Haase says:

    I saw this opening night and it was my first opera. I was immediately in love with it. I have tickets already for my next one for Journey to Valhalla. So very impressed with the singing and everything. Such a wonderful experience.

    1. Grace Suh says:

      Welcome to the world of opera, Michelle! It really is the best of so many worlds — music and theatre and design. Enjoy Valhalla!

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