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(By Klaus Thymann)

-- Buzz McClain

'Romeo et Juliette'

The National Symphony Orchestra and Wolf Trap Opera Company combined for a lovely concert performance of Charles Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette" Saturday evening at Wolf Trap. The libretto, drawn largely from Shakespeare's tragedy, is combined with gorgeous flowing arias and ensembles, and colorful musical accompaniment makes the French composer's 1867 work an infectiously attractive opera. It may occasionally slip into over-the-top sentimentality, but summer is a time for a bit of indulgence.

Under the watchful guise of experienced conductor Stephen Lord, the show went right at the essential narrative of the star-crossed lovers rather than playing up darker themes of clan rivalry and conflict. Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer used lighting and a smattering of props to frame and clarify the story.

The depth of tenor Chad Freeburg's Romeo came from ardent singing and a clear chemistry he struck with his Juliet, soprano Ailyn Pérez. This Juliet was impassioned and sweet, and Pérez displayed some gleaming top notes and an alluring mid-range that made up in silvery agility what it lacked in size.

Alexander Tall, a promising baritone who filled the role of Mercutio, sang with a force and precision that matched tenor Jason Ferrante's Tybalt. Matt Boehler pulled double duty as Friar Lawrence and the lawgiving Duke, while mezzo-soprano Fiona Murphy took the part of Stephano. Baritone Museop Kim was a fine Capulet, and Faith Sherman brought her dusky mezzo-soprano to Gertrude. Baritone Weston Hurt and tenor Jeremy Little also made strong contributions.

The NSO provided supple and vibrant accompaniment. Members of the Washington Men's Camerata and the Washington Women's Chorus sang with blended warmth.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

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