Juliet and Romeo
The pandemic has had many dreadful effects but there have been some unexpected glimmers of light. Young performers – starved of opportunities to perform in traditional venues – have begun to devise innovative shows, performed in unusual spaces. This production by a new group, Marginalia, fuses extracts from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. It is an admirable attempt to re-imagine the famous love story and to create something new by bringing together words and music from different source material. Although the overall work is not entirely convincing, there are moments of real drama and of beautiful music.
To offer a framework into which the two styles of story-telling can fit, ‘creator’ Chloe Allison has introduced a character called “Love”, played here by Rebecca Hare. Part Friar Lawrence and part baroque opera convention, this role uses Shakespeare’s words to frame the Bellini arias and sets the dramatic scene for the audience. Despite Hare’s exuberance and enthusiasm, the links sometimes feel a bit tenuous and the acoustic of St Gabriel’s is not kind to the spoken word, especially in the quieter moments.
The acoustic does provide, on the other hand, an ideal environment for the strength of the piece which is the voices of Chloe Allison and Anna-Luise Wagner, who both deliver Bellini’s music as if born to sing early nineteenth century opera. Soprano Wagner, boasts a delicacy of tone matched with real dramatic heft when needed. The cadenza at the end of a beautifully-sung Oh! Quante Volte was exquisite. Allison, a sulky yobbo Romeo, with little time for “Love”, was equally convincing. With a powerful mezzo voice and an arresting stage presence, she gave Romeo the teenage swagger that the role cries out for. Tu sola, o mia Giuletta was a standout passage, angry and heart-broken by turns. Pianist Luke Fitzgerald gave both the singers plenty of sensitive support but one missed the richness that a full orchestra brings to a Bellini score
In a large and chilly church there was a limit to the choices available to director Eleanor Burke and I would hesitate to describe the piece as ‘fully staged’. Even so, the tragedy of the “star-crossed lovers” was worth the re-telling and I look forward to the day when Marginalia can dream of bigger and better things.
- Devised by: Chloe Allison
- Director: Eleanor Burke
- Performed in English and Italian, with translations
- © Photography Tristan Selden
- Performed by: Rebecca Hare, Anna-Luise Wagner,Chloe Allison, Luke Fitzgerald
- Venue: St Gabriels, Pimlico
- Running time: 70 minutes
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