Utah Opera performs ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Joshua Dennis in the role of Romeo grieves for Juliet, portrayed by Anya Matanovič  (Dana Sohm/Utah Opera)

The Utah Opera started performing French composer Charles Gounod’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” on Oct. 13 and will conclude performances on Oct. 21. The original Shakespeare play has been adapted through film, music, theater and opera. “Romeo and Juliet” has been adapted into over two dozen different operas, but Gounod’s version has remained the most popular, while many of the others are all but forgotten according to the World of Opera website.

The set which was built in 1998 for Utah Opera’s first production of Romeo and Juliet, apparently contains a hidden toy alligator, as all Utah Opera productions do, according to their website. The last time “Romeo and Juliet” was performed at the Utah Opera was over a decade ago in 2005.

The Utah Opera has brought opera to the Salt Lake Valley since it performed a production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” in 1978. According to their website, they currently boast an audience of over 150,000 people annually. Local singers can audition for the chorus and leading roles at the Utah Opera. Many of the chorus members sing opera full time, but some are students and others are everyday professionals.

In an effort to make an old story new again, the Utah Opera performed interpretations of certain lines as more humorous and other characters as more naive.

Jonah Hoskins, a BYU student who made his Utah Opera debut in the role of Benvolio, said he believes the opera portrays “the brutality and gruesomeness of the murders and of these two people dying, even more than the play itself.”

He said the opera focuses on the conflict between the two rival clans the Capulets and the Montagues, which adds another layer of tragedy to the classic story. Their deaths, according to Hoskins, is made even more brutal by the foolishness of the conflict between the two feuding families.

Hoskins said working with Utah Opera for the first time has been an excellent opportunity and he is grateful for their willingness to accommodate him as a student and give him a chance to perform with them.

Hoskins’ father Todd Hoskins said after 15 years of watching Jonah perform, seeing him on the Utah Opera stage makes his heart skip a beat.

“It’s a powerful story with an amazing set and wonderful performers,” Hoskins said after seeing the show twice in one week. “It is truly beautiful with world-class singing that will change your heart.”

What truly elevated the aesthetic of the production was the costuming. Head of costuming Verona Green used over ten yards of fine fabric for each of the women’s elegant dresses.

For more information about the cast and production visit the Utah Opera website.

Jonah Hoskins will also be performing on Oct. 20 and 26 as Septimus in BYU’s production of Handel’s Theodora. His sister Mary Hoskins will be performing on Oct. 27 in the title role of Theodora.

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