I was carping last night that Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades has too slender a plot line. Well one thing you have to say about Mama Gounod's boy: the kid's got cojones: first he tackles Goethe, then Shakespeare. I'm not up enough on Goethe to say for sure, but with Shakespeare, this is a problem: no matter how good he is, he is always going to be butting heads with his great predecessor.
It's a problem which, for my money, in Roméo et Juliette he never quite overcomes. R&J has never been a special favorite of mine in the Shakespearean oeuvre, although I have to admit it has its moments (I just think it goes off the rails after Mercutio dies and that silly nurse and that calamitous priest take over). Be that as it may, over and over again watching the Met's rendition of Gounod's version last night, I found myself thinking--nice bit of tune you've got there Charlie baby, but you'll just never top the great original, will you?
It's a problem aggravated by the fact that you've got a pretty-good score played out by a pretty-good cast. Indeed, probably the hit of the evening was a Juliette who is famous for being pretty-good: Hei Kyung Hong, a Met veteran who stepped in at the last minute to cover for the petulant Angela Gheorghiu. Hong got a richly deserved boost Zachary Woolfe in the Times: he reminded us that Hong is a trouper who, as Woolfe acidly put it, is one of those "singers who hold an opera company together." Her Romeo, Piotr Beczala, was smooth and easy to enjoy. He may have lacked a certain nuance although I suppose you could say he's supposed to lack nuance--he's (in the play) 15. But that's another place where Shakespeare may just understand better how to do things: he can give us star-crossed lovers who (at once) spout glorious poetry, and are innocent, and are doomed.