Nadine Sierra and Benjamin Bernheim on Performing in Roméo et Juliette at the Met | Playbill

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Classic Arts Features Nadine Sierra and Benjamin Bernheim on Performing in Roméo et Juliette at the Met

The two singers tackle one of opera's most romantic scores.

Nadine Sierra and Benjamin Bernheim in Roméo et Juliette Marty Sohl / Met Opera

This month, two singers at the height of their powers—radiant soprano Nadine Sierra and tenor sensation Benjamin Bernheim—come together in Gounod’s sumptuous Shakespeare adaptation Roméo et Juliette for the Metropolitan Opera. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct. Hear from the star-crossed lovers about their passion for one of the repertoire’s most romantic scores. Roméo et Juliette runs until March 30.

Nadine Sierra: "I’m a huge Shakespeare fan. My earliest studies were in theater, and I began learning his plays and sonnets from the time I was 10 years old. I love Juliet’s character arc: The struggle through love that she has with Romeo propels her into adulthood very quickly, and it’s quite amazing—in both the play and the opera— how we can clearly distinguish her developing maturity. In Shakespeare’s original, we sense it through her use of language and the womanly instincts she begins to discover after meeting Romeo, and Gounod translates this into the texture and depth of her musical lines as the drama unfolds.

"The texture of the music also changes in a profound way when Romeo and Juliet realize they’re not only in love, but caught in the middle of a war between families. Gounod then gives us the central musical theme that persists throughout the entire opera and is probably one of the most beautiful melodies in the French repertoire. My personal favorite musical moment is when we hear this theme at the very beginning of Act II, just before Romeo sings his famous aria under Juliet’s balcony. It’s so achingly beautiful—so much longing, hope, despair, love, and purity all packaged into two pages of music. It’s a miracle."

Benjamin Bernheim: "I am very passionate about promoting French opera, and Roméo et Juliette is central to that repertoire. So it’s just an incredible pleasure and privilege to sing it at the Met. I received such a warm welcome from the company and the audience when I made my debut in Rigoletto last season, and every time I step on the legendary stage, I try to honor all those who have sung there before me. 

"Roméo is also a role I dreamed about when I first started singing. He is on stage a lot, with so much gorgeous music, but I especially love singing the final scene in the tomb, which includes my second aria and an epic duet. I challenge anyone to listen to this music and not be moved! Overall, I like to approach the character in the most natural way possible and think about how it would feel in real life to take such dramatic action for love. His actions might be extreme, but he is very young, and our first real experience of love can seem like a life-or-death situation. I think everyone can relate to being so deeply in love, and our aim is to make the audience remember that glorious feeling and relive it with us."

Photos: Roméo et Juliette at The Metropolitan Opera

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