Reviews: Romeo et Juliette, Lyric Opera of Chicago

“The final performances of Lyric Opera’s Romeo et Juliette are getting a lift from a new tenor. Eric Cutler is singing the role of Romeo for the final three performances of Gounod’s grand opera, and in his first outing Friday night proved an outstanding addition to Bartlett Sher’s lively and atmospheric production. 

The strapping tenor made a dashing counterpart to Susanna Phillips’ Juliette. His tenor is of a darker hue than that of Joseph Calleja, who opened in the role, yet has impressive power and agility … in the high tessitura, throwing off clarion top notes. Dramatically, Cutler was exceptional, aptly passionate yet conveying a more rounded and conflicted hero … She [Susanna Phillips] brought dramatic power to the potion aria and with Cutler made the full tragedy of the tomb scene effective and moving …”

Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review

“Capping Lyric Opera of Chicago’s noteworthy 2015–2016 season, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette has a first-rate cast responding beautifully to Emmanuel Villaume’s breathtaking conducting. In the role of Romeo, Eric Cutler gives a stunning performance. His supple voice is made for this part, and he makes the most of Gounod’s lyricism and subtlety, all with exquisite timing and remarkable musicianship. In the second-act cavatina “Ah! lève-toi soleil, Cutler made the most of Gounod’s sinuous lines, and earned scattered shouts of “bravo.”

He also brought calm restraint to the final scene of Act III, when Romeo tries to suppress that fight leading to the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. Here Cutler’s softer tones spoke volumes in bringing out the character’s emotional state. Similar power was apparent in the final duet “Viens! fuyons au bout du monde!” in which Cutler and Susanna Phillips completely commanded the stage with their intensity . . . in the last scene, she and Cutler were powerful . . . In an interesting change, this scene was placed after the single intermission (the first half ended with the wedding scene) increasing the dramatic emphasis—perhaps more than if the production had followed the conventional scenic division of Gounod’s score. This allowed the drama to build to the joyous quartet that concludes the first scene of Act III, “O pur bonheur.” Here Phillips, Cutler, Van Horn, and Deborah Nansteel (as the nurse Gertrude) were a cohesive, stylish unit.”

James L. Zychowicz – Seen and Heard International

“Romeo was sung by tenor Eric Cutter. What a great voice! His singing was simply stunning, tossing off high notes like it was nothing at all. A tenor to be reckoned with!”

Herbert Burtis – Albertitalks

“The final three performances featured the Roméo of Eric Cutler, whose contributions created a memorable atmosphere in what was already a movingly effective production . . . Within seconds Roméo is indeed struck by the sight of Juliette and of her “beauté celeste” [“heavenly beauty”]. Already in this brief, opening narration Mr. Cutler captures the persona of his character by communicating vocally his emotional entrancement. Each word seems here laden with the weight of growing attraction . . .

Cutler’s high pitches at the start are followed by an aching, softer color on “vermeille” in “une bouche vermeille” [“a rosy mouth”] signifying Roméo’s growing ardor . . . Roméo sings of the night [“O nuit!”] at he emerges from the darkness at stage rear, just as he soon begs the daylight to commence in the tenor showpiece, “Ah! lève-toi soleil!” (“Ah! Arise, o sun”)]. The light in Juliette’s window induces an ardor made eminently sincere in this aria by Cutler’s fervent appeals. His graceful approach to top notes and remarkable application of piano give the breathless impression of a hero coming to terms with his true love. With the final, extended high pitches on “viens! parais!” [“Come! Appear!”] Cutler’s Roméo has convinced both himself and us of his devotion . . .

In their lovers’ duet on the preceding night the principal voices blend most effectively with an ideal unison on “tristesse” in the line adapted almost literally from Shakespeare, “De cet adieu si douce est la tristesse” [“From this sweet farewell comes such sorrow”]. The final words in this scene belong to Roméo, a parting sentiment made especially poignant in Mr. Cutler’s performance. While imitating the sweet sleep that he wishes for Juliette the word “sommeille!” is held on an extended, dreamlike note. Cutler concludes the scene with an ethereal, high pitch to decorate the “baiser” [“kiss”] that he sends via the night’s breezes [“Que la brise des nuits te porte ce baiser!”] . . .

Their extended duet, “Nuit d’hyménée” [“Night of our marriage”] shows both characters entranced in a vocal web, that Phillips and Cutler create as a mirror of their emotions. Their voices blend repeatedly in “toujours à toi” [“Forever yours”] and “il faut partir” [“You must leave”] . . . The touching, shared death in the final scene of the opera is prefigured by Roméo’s monologue at its start. Here Cutler delineates the anguish, resolution, and faithfulness of the ultimate loving soul in his delivery. Once he enters Juliette’s tomb, unaware of her feigned death, Roméo must take farewell and drink the true poison. Distinct vocal color is applied here to “éternité” and to “peur” [“fear”] which he shuns when facing death for the sake of Juliette. When addressing his own lips, Roméo instructs them to give Juliette his last kiss. Cutler’s soaring pitch on “votre dernier baiser” leads to the heartrending revival of Juliette and the final tragedy of the musical drama.”

Salvatore Calomino – Opera Today

“. . . the smoothness of Cutler’s legato singing, his dynamic finesse, clear French diction and sturdy musicianship supported a convincingly ardent, youthful portrayal . . .”

John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune