Romeo en Julia

paradise lies under your Mother's feet

Opera Spanga, in collaboration with the Frisian Youth Concert Wind Orchestra.

The Frisian Youth Concert Wind Orchestra (a sub-division of Keunstwurk) plays both the musical and theatrical lead in this production, along with Opera Spanga singers Francis van Broekhuizen, Klara Uleman, Marcel van Dieren and Sandrine Buendia.

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set in our own time. When tensions fed by ignorance and intolerance due to cultural and religious differences increase to the point where, just as in Shakespeare, death ensues, some of the orchestra seats are vacated. The orchestra sounds tragically thin.

The Fertility of a Poisonous Idea
With Stuyvesant Zero, an opera in two scenes and a debate (2012), Opera Spanga introduced the theme which we intend to explore in the coming years: “The Fertility of a Poisonous Idea.” We intend to examine why it is that throughout history, and also especially in the present, it often appears to be so frighteningly simple to bring a poisonous idea to fruition.

The Story
Holtenius, the frustrated Frisian farmer, blames the decline of his business on the presence of foreigners, all of whom he has come to hate. This makes it impossible for his son Romeo to express to him his love for the North African Juliet. Juliet’s father Loukile, who has arranged a marriage for his daughter, also clings to outdated ideas similar to those of Holtenius. Their ideas, which are not sustained by a constantly changing everyday reality, but are static and narrow-minded, have disastrous effects—they kill all young love.

The Idea Behind the Production
It is incredible that without blushing we Dutch can use a term like “allochtoon” (literally “not of this world”) to designate foreigners. Language, the expression of our manner of thinking and our societal reality, can have a toxic effect. Words—sometimes words which have lost their meaning for us due to excessive use—tend to stigmatize and continue to echo for a long time. We could continue to use a cliché which we are more sensitive to in a time like this, when people are set up against each other and exploited. But the other is yourself, and there is nothing other than yourself. Shakespeare expresses ‘the importance of names’ thus:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

The Music
Love rendered impossible by family feuds and cultural and religious differences is a timeless theme. Down through the centuries the texts and the theme of Romeo and Juliet have been a source of inspiration for countless writers, musicians (classical, jazz and pop), visual artists and film makers.

For this production Opera Spanga makes use of musical works inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Romeo&Juliet by Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Ouverture by Tchaikovsky, I Capuleti e i Montechi by Bellini, What is a Youth by Nino Rota from Zeffirelli’s film Romeo and Juliet, Romeo et Juliette by Berlioz, Romeo et Juliette by Gounod and a number of songs from Bernstein’s Westside Story, a song by the pop band Meatloaf and another by Dire Straits as well as music composed especially for this opera by Floris van Bergeijk. We use the melodies and thoughts of our ancestors to enrich our lives.

Romeo and Juliet, Paradise lies under your Mother’s Feet, was made possible by: Province of Friesland / Fonds Podiumkunsten / VSB Fund / SNS Reaal fonds / Cultural Participation Friesland Province/ Prince Bernhard Culture Fund / Lammert Koopmans Foundation / Municipality Weststellingwerf / St. Anthony Guest House / Budgetcam / Frisian Rent