We all know and understand Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s tale of young love, tragedy and love’s redeeming power – don’t we? In the first of our 22/23 concert series events Marginalia sought to challenge our preconceptions by presenting us with A rose by another name: Juliet & Romeo, Shakespeare & Bellini retold.

Marginalia, an interdisciplinary performance collective formed at Cambridge University, took the form of Love (actor Rebecca Hare), Juliet (soprano Anna-Luise Wagner), Romeo (OC and mezzo Chloe Allison) and were accompanied by pianist Luke Fitzgerald in ten scenes devised to question the notion that love heals and perhaps the brand of love eschewed by Romeo is not as noble as it may appear.

The tale began with Love reminding an attentive audience that tragedy awaits. What followed was an expertly crafted narrative fusing extracts of Shakespeare’s dialogue with Bellini’s music from his 1830 opera I Capuleti e I Montecchi. Marginalia say their aim was to highlight ‘the pressures that Romeo and other men exert on Juliet…since she has no female companion’. The narrative questions the idea of fate playing a hand in the young lover’s destiny, suggesting instead that Romeo’s ego and emotional manipulation, fuelled by love’s pernicious side, play a strong hand in the outcome. The artistic result was eighty minutes of well thought through and engaging dramatic narrative and musical excellence that captivated students and audience a like.

The benefits of presenting such a high quality performance were clear, particularly given Chloe’s role at Cranleigh as a teacher of singing, and students took genuine inspiration from seeing how a deep understanding of character and text can enhance their performance.

I very much look forward to seeing how performances such as this influence and manifest in student vocal performance throughout the year both in the music department and on stage in drama/musical collaborations.