Gounod's Roméo and Juliette with Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna, filmed on December 15, 2007 has managed to retain a strong sense of currency.
In a stunning moment at the opening of act IV, Roméo and Juliette appear on their wedding bed floating in the air amid stars. In this production Guy Joosten created an astronomical setting that made the destiny of the "star-crossed lovers" seem part of a deeply ordered cosmic patterning rather than impulsive teenage behavior.
The center of the set contained a huge rotating astronomical clock with signs engraved onto the outer edge. A circular insert of the clock rotated on a horizontal axis to create a high edge sloping away from the audience. Background images of galaxies, a hemispheric view of Venus, and eclipses appeared were projected as background images. The other significant prop was a curved stairway with lines connecting the front and back of each stair on a diagonal--a sundial stairway.
Sometimes it felt like the action was taking place on the deck of the Starship Enterprise--even the house safety lights visible behind conductor Plácido Domingo during the orchestral introduction to Act II now looked like stars.
The movie rebroadcast was given without intermissions, but between acts we given a glimpse of the complex production life that takes place backstage. These breaks seemed in continual motion, as though we were being pulled through an amusement park on tracks. It was an effective way to break tension.
Our backstage tour also felt voyeuristic. We got to see Netrebko in preparation as she adjusted the nightgown in which she appeared on the balcony. It was an unexpected anticipation of how Romeo must feel as he sits undetected in Juliette's garden and sees a light.
Juliette's part in this opera is famous for its transformation from coloratura in Act I into a fully dramatic role by the end of the opera. Netrebko transitioned the role with great delicacy, finding opportunities express charm within the most dramatic moments. Her poison aria is full throated, dark sound.
Focus in particular on the last thirty seconds. This final phrase needs to climb steadily in intensity over long arcs of melody. She begins the phrase facing away from the audience, which darkens the sound. She turns just in time to raze us with that high "C." Observe the devilish smile as she rebuilds the closing line "Roméo, I drink to you!" All Juliette. Netrebko is a force of nature.