Here's another installment from the now defunct Creating Text(iles), this a review of an opera, from December 7, 2006:
At some point recently I promised to discuss the production of Romeo and Juliet: The Opera which I went to recently. I learned a lot. I learned that if you are producing a version of Romeo and Juliet, whether it's been transformed into an opera or not, and it occurs to you that making the Capulets into modern-day Mafia owners of a funeral home would add a lot to the deeper meanings of the plot, you should lie down for a while till you sober up, BEFORE you go on over to a meeting with the director and begin to throw your weight around.
I'm all for messing with the classics. Hell, I've got a sense of humor. No prob. So my objection to the version of the opera that I went to is NOT that people tweaked the holy works of Shakespeare (and Gounod, as far as that goes), when they should have left them alone on account of their sacredness. Nope. My objection is that if Juliet has decorated her bedroom with coffins, it just doesn't make any sense for her to get all hysterical at the thought of waking up from the poisoned sleep and seeing Tybalt's ghost.
You can't buy it. She's been sleeping with ghosts all along.
Also, why are the Capulets having all their parties in the funeral home
itself? Have they no home to go to? Are they ALL just so addicted to hanging out with the corpses they can't go home?
No. The Mafia part, fine. Hell. Set it in the city streets with New York gangs. I think the Mafia part could have worked nicely.
But having the Capulets spend all their time, waking or sleeping, playing or working, in the funeral home just. Does. Not. Work.
I was reminded of the classic livejournal page, "THE THINGS I WILL NOT DO WHEN I DIRECT A SHAKESPEARE PRODUCTION, ON STAGE OR FILM."* The site's up to well over 400 entries now, and I haven't got time to go through it all, but if the Capulet Funeral Parlor isn't the list, it damn well should be.
*Oh, I love this site with a mighty passion.
"Lady MacBeth should never give her biggest speeches lying facedown on a green couch."
"I will not have Romeo and Juliet's clothes gradually become more modern as the play progresses, to symbolize that their love is eternal, especially if this means that Juliet has to wear a pink mini skirt for her death scene."
"Should I choose to portray Lady Macduff as pregnant, I will ensure that her bump is secure."
"I will not begin A Midsummer Night's Dream with a song and dance number featuring Puck tap-dancing."
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will not enter on a miniature train."
"I will remember that Much Ado is a comedy. I will refrain from having the company dress in funerial black for the wedding, dance to sombre music, and then die in a bombing raid. Even if am labouring under the misapprehension that this would be terribly artistic. "
Lord, it makes me want to go harrass Shakespeare just for the sheer fun of it.
Maybe that explains the funeral parlor......