I went to the Encore simulcast of Roméo et Juliette Wednesday night. I'd seen the opera performed only once, a long time ago...I was still in high school. But I fell in love with "Je veux vivre", absolutely flipped over it. Back then you could still buy 10" vinyl records of single arias, and there were a number available, as the aria was a fairly popular concert piece at that time. So I bought the one recorded by Bidú Sayao, checked the libretto out of the library, and memorized the words. (Yes, my schoolmates all looked at me funny when I tried to talk about it.) And you know, I still remember most of those words. Anyway, it was a special pleasure for me to hear the aria again as a part of a larger whole instead of isolated from its context.

The minor singers in this production were forgettable, but then so are their roles. There are only two voices that matter in this opera, and Netrebko and Alagna certainly delivered. They sounded so good, both singly and together. All the nuances Netrebko put into her singing...she certainly doesn't look upon R&J as a second-rate opera. And I don't think Alagno knows how to sleepwalk through a role.

The set was scaled-down Renaissance with one prominent, deliberate anachronism: the sky. The backdrop projections were enlargements of modern astronomical photographs -- the sun shooting out solar flares, a couple of nebulas, the surface of the moon, and what looked like a red dwarf burning off its surface gases. The sky was always visible...through an open window, through an archway in town, etc. It was all preparation for R&J's one night of love. Their bed was a platform suspended halfway down from the ceiling, against a backdrop of a starfield. They truly looked as if they were floating among the stars. A wonderful illusion. The platform was slowly lowered during the duet to rest on another platform, with steps, so they could get out of bed and get on with the opera.

Only later did I get to thinking how dangerous that must have been. Their platform bed had no guard rails to keep them from falling off. That platform must have weighed a ton, because it was completely stable; it had to be, with all the thrashing, groping, entwining, and, oh yes, singing going on. This R&J pair did not make love quietly. But the platform never tilted or even wobbled. The cables holding it were visible in the close-up shots, but they didn't look nearly thick enough to support so great a weight. As an indication of how well the device worked, I didn't think of any of this during the performance. Only the next day did I get to wondering.

Odds & ends:

1. The orchestra members were dressed as usual, men in tuxes and women in black, but the conductor (Domingo) was wearing a brown jacket, striped tie, and a beige sweater-vest.

2. They cut the epilogue, thank goodness.

3. The friend I went with discovered the Encore simulcast was repeated at 10 a.m. the following day. There's no indication at the Met site of a second showing, nor was it listed on the theater's web page schedule of shows and times. It was listed in the newspaper (Sacramento Bee), but the guy who answers the phone at the theater doesn't know whether the rest of the summer simulcasts will be repeated or not.

4. My friend and I are agreed that Roberto Alagno is one sexy tenor.