Will Power

Opera shakes up Shakespeare by adding character, going drag.

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Just in time for Valentine's Day, Cleveland Opera presents the date-night story of Roméo et Juliette, Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers, their feuding families, and Romeo's wisecracking sidekick Stephano. Wait a minute . . . Even if we did spend most of the time during our college Shakespeare courses battling hangovers, we're certain there was no Stephano in the play. Fenlon Lamb, the woman who plays the manly Stephano in Charles Gounod's 1887 opera, says that, back in the day, all performers demanded solos, so parts were written to accommodate each and every one of them. "It was the singers being pigs, basically," she says.

Lamb's quick to add that her role as a man follows contemporary theater rules, in which women typically play dudes onstage, since castrati — guys who had their gonads chopped off so they could reach higher notes — are scarce nowadays. "It's clear that I'm a woman dressed as a man," she says. "I look like a male model." Still, says Lamb, it's a great acting challenge. "If you can inhabit the physicality of a boy," she says, "you've really gone far."
Fri., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 p.m.; Feb. 17-18, 8 p.m.

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