Berlioz – Roméo et Juliette

Théatre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Friday October 27 2006

Conductor: Sir Colin Davis. Isabelle Cals, mezzo-soprano. Pavol Breslik, tenor. Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone. Orchestre National de France. Chorus of Radio France.

Last week’s Berlioz binge continued with the indefinable Roméo et Juliette. The orchestre national was on cracking form under Sir Colin Davis. From the very start, it was plain from his laid-back stance and economic, matter-of-fact gestures that Sir Colin was totally in charge, and plain that the orchestra were determined to enjoy themselves – it’s rare to see them smiling and swaying along to the music like that. The strings were crisp and fresh yet tender, like rose petals, and played perfectly together (it doesn’t go without saying). The woodwind band was gorgeous as usual, and the brass were unusually firm and ripe.

The Radio France chorus was sumptuous as ever, though you couldn’t tell a word they were singing. And we had three very decent soloists, though it was a shame that, on account of a family illness, Joyce DiDonato was replaced. Still, I won’t say we had Roméo et Juliette without a Juliet: it wouldn’t be kind – or true.

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