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Boston Lyric Opera brings free performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Boston Common Aug. 11 and 13

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Boston Lyric Opera brings free performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Boston Common Aug. 11 and 13
Ricardo Garcia and Vanessa Becerra star in Boston Lyric Opera’s Romeo & Juliet. PHOTO: OLIVIA MOON

One of the Western canon’s most famous romances, and tragedies, “Romeo and Juliet” takes the stage on Boston Common August 11 and 13. The free, public performances produced by Boston Lyric Opera in partnership with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) and the City of Boston aim to bring the city together under the stars to celebrate the art of drama.

“This bold interpretation of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers, told under a starry New England sky, celebrates the rich legacy of this opera in a modern context,” says Bradley Vernatter, BLO’s acting Stanford Calderwood general and artistic director.

Accessibility and emotion are the central tenets of this production. This rendition is based on Charles Gounod’s 1867 musical setting of the classic drama with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, but it’s sung in English translation with surtitles to make the content more available. Ricardo Garcia makes his BLO debut as Romeo, and Boston Conservatory at Berklee alumna Vanessa Becerra stars as Juliet.

“Democratizing art is central to our mission,” says CSC’s Steven Maler, stage director. “Early opera, like Shakespeare’s work, was populist in its time … vital and vibrant parts of the culture. I am happy we can do artistic collaborations with partners like BLO, which continues to democratize the art form and make it more accessible.”

This adaptation compresses some of the characters and scenes of the original performance for a show that moves quickly and excitingly without an overwhelming number of performers to keep track of. Two actors have also been added to perform text from Shakespeare’s original play and a few of his sonnets to provide context and texture to the otherwise operatic performance.

A tale as old as time, “Romeo and Juliet” follows two star-crossed lovers who meet at a party without realizing they’re members of warring families. As conflict broils between their loved ones, the two young protagonists attempt to find a way to be together against all odds. The show runs for two hours on Boston Common, and chairs, blankets and picnics are all welcome. The performance is free and open to the public; visitors can rent chairs for $10 if desired. 

“In collaboration with our friends at CSC, we are creating something completely unique for our city, something neither company could make on its own,” says Vernatter. “These performances demonstrate the creative power of the performing arts in Boston and the importance of coming together as a community.”