Gounod follows Shakespeare's story closely, with minor alterations to satisfy the needs of opera. The stage and scenery are filled with astronomical symbols to depict the tragedy of "star-crossed lovers" from two warring houses in Verona.
Set in the industrialized 1950s, Hansel and Gretel are latch-key kids to a depressed mother and overworked father. The witch runs a stainless-steel kitchen with modern gadgets and a glass-door oven. One hopes it's the self-cleaning kind.
The witches tell fortunes: Macbeth will be King, Banquo will beget Kings. Macbeth helps the agenda by murdering King Duncan; and, what the heck, Banquo, too. Macbeth takes the crown, Lady Macbeth hosts a dinner; Banquo crashes the event.
A life of love or a life of luxury? In a moment of crisis, Manon can't decide; so she tries to have both, and ends up with neither. This is co-dependency set to music, and it was Puccini's first big hit.
Peter Grimes, an unmarried, eccentric fisherman, can't keep an apprentice: they disappear mysteriously every time. In the absence of OSHA laws or child-protective services, the townspeople gather to conduct an inquest into the matter.
Wagner's supporters say that he took music to new heights of expression here; his detractors say it's the death-knell for melody and structure. It's four hours of aching yearning that does not rest until the last few minutes of the opera.
Imagine a world where taste and sensitivity have been overrun by gaudy excess and marketing hyperbole, where Puccini's quiet, intimate love-story can at last be told with A Cast of Thousands and a Real, Live Military Marching Band.