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Chesapeake Chamber Opera presents Gounod's 'Romeo et Juliette'

This weekend's pileup of operatic activity means that you're bound to find something you like. It also means that I can't get to all of it. And that explains why I slipped out of the office Thursday to catch a little of the dress rehearsal for Chesapeake Chamber Opera's presentation of "Romeo et Juliette," one of the things I'll be missing. Performances are Saturday and Sunday.

Gounod's take on the Shakespeare tragedy has much to offer (I rather like it more than "Faust," but there's no accounting for taste). The determined Chesapeake organization has rounded up some good talent from the area and beyond.

Judging by the rehearsal, the essential roles of the doomed lovers have been ably cast. Jennifer Edwards and William Davenport have demonstrated their vibrant voices on other occasions around town, and they sound like they've got plenty of vibrancy on tap for this production (directed by Jacob Feldman).

What I found missing on Thursday was tonal subtlety; I wanted to hear gentler, sweet sounds from both young artists. Still, the lyrical intensity they summoned was quite impressive, and it was matched by their colleagues.

I especially admired the beefy bass voices of Jeffrey Tarr (as Frere Laurent) and Terrance Brown (as Juliette's father). From my brief visit, I was also noted the flexible conducting of Rolando Sanz and the colorful playing of pianist Matthew Ganong.

Memorial Episcopal in Bolton Hill makes a fitting venue for the work; the church's pulpit fills in neatly for Juliette's balcony and the altar does nicely as, well, an altar for the marriage ceremony.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESAPEAKE CHAMBER OPERA

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