• Roméo et Juliette Classroom Activities

The activities in this guide look at several aspects of Roméo et Juliette:

  • the work's place in history;
  • the creative and technical choices made by the composer, the librettists, and the artists of the Metropolitan Opera; and
  • the opera itself as story, spectacle, and emotionally engaging work of art.

The guide seeks not only to acquaint students with Roméo et Juliette, but also to encourage them to think more broadly about opera, the performing arts, and creative decision-making. Little prior knowledge is required for the activities.

 

Time Travel with Roméo et Juliette

The story of Roméo and Juliet predates Shakespeare. He borrowed it from two earlier English sources—a poem and a prose telling—both based on an Italian version borrowed from an earlier Italian version, and another, going back a whole century. Even before that, similar tales of doomed love have been traced back to classical Greece.

Over the years playwrights, composers, and filmmakers have brought the story to life in a variety of media, with ever-new interpretations suited for their times and places. In this activity, students will create two charts: a table comparing versions of the Roméo and Juliet story and a timeline. Through these, students will:

  • create a visual representation of the story’s role in world cultures over time;
  • identify the familiar and the universal in the tragedy;
  • explore the cultural differences implied by different versions; and
  • acquaint themselves with the tale in advance of the Met's Live in HD transmission.

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Thought Balloons, or Why Are We Stopping Here?

This activity addresses a notable aspect of all operas: the moments when all the action stops so we can hear what a character is thinking. Students will explore the challenge of communicating a character’s thoughts by:

  • writing a brief scene;
  • closely reading a scene from Shakespeare; and
  • listening to the Gounod version of the same scene in order to explore the function and workings of an aria.

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