SynopsisRomeo & Juliet
The opera is presented in flashback, opening with a chorus of Veronese nobles. Somber and dignified, they recount the years of ongoing feuding between the city’s two great families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and the story of the love that brought tragedy and peace to both sides.
The action takes place in 14th-century Verona and opens at a masked ball at the palazzo of the Capulet family. The affair is not only an elegant entertainment, but also a birthday party to introduce Count Capulet’s pride, his daughter Juliette, to Veronese society. He wants to hasten a favorable match between her and Count Paris, who is assured by her cousin, Tybalt, of her beauty. But the party has been surreptitiously crashed by rival forces including Montague’s son, Roméo. One look at Juliette so overwhelms him that he forgets his latest amour and can think only of her. They meet, and are instantly drawn to each other. As they discover their respective identities, Tybalt intrudes and they hurriedly part as the party continues.
Later that night, Roméo returns looking for Juliette. Hiding in a garden outside her window, he overhears as she expresses her love for him. He then comes forward and declares his love for her. When Capulet servants come looking for an intruder, they tease Juliette’s nurse, Gertrude, as Roméo hides. When the servants leave, Roméo and Juliette reaffirm their love and vow to marry.
It is daybreak, and the sleepless Roméo has come to the chamber of Laurent, a Veronese friar. Juliette and Gertrude arrive, and Laurent, convinced of the two lovers’ sincerity, agrees to unite them in marriage. He hopes that their union will end the bitter ongoing conflict between their families.
Later, in the street outside Capulet’s house, factions loyal to the two families are behaving like rival gangs, taunting and baiting each other. Roméo’s young page, Stéphano, struts and mocks the Capulet forces in an attempt to establish his own machismo. But the result is dire: When Tybalt challenges Stéphano, Roméo intervenes and tries to make peace between the opposing sides, but swordplay erupts. With a crowd gathering, Tybalt kills Roméo’s friend Mercutio, and then Roméo kills Tybalt, who dies in Capulet’s arms. The Duke of Verona banishes Roméo.
Roméo has stolen back to Juliette’s bedroom, where he and Juliette spend one night as husband and wife before he must leave Verona. The now-wiser Juliette understands that if Roméo had not killed her cousin Tybalt, Tybalt would have killed Roméo. After the newlyweds reaffirm their love and sing an extended, agonized farewell, Roméo departs. But soon Juliette’s father enters and insists that she marry Paris that very day. Desperate, she is comforted by Laurent, who provides a sleeping potion to thwart the wedding ceremony. It will give her every appearance of death; then, notified by Laurent, Roméo will come to rescue her. She drinks the potion and collapses as guests arrive to lead her to the chapel.
Though Friar Laurent wrote a letter for Roméo to inform him of the plan, it could not be delivered. Arriving at the Capulets’ family crypt, the unknowing Roméo finds Juliette apparently lifeless and arrayed for interment. Distraught, he drinks a draught of poison just as Juliette begins to awaken. They share a final dream of a future together; then, as Roméo weakens, Juliette draws a dagger that she has concealed, and stabs herself. The dying couple pray for God’s forgiveness.