Even before it takes a shell hit, the chandelier is not the only thing askew in Orpha Phelan's production. The Capulets, in drab shades, are marooned in an anonymous war zone. The Montagues are represented as the attacking army. The only thing missing is a suicide bomber.
If the work's origins lay in Shakespeare, which they don't, quite a lot would be missing. That's the fault of Bellini's librettist, not Phelan, however. Mercutio, Lady Capulet and the Nurse are not present in this version; Tybalt and Paris are combined as Tebaldo, Romeo's rival; and Lorenzo has become an army surgeon. The action takes place first at the checkpoint of the Capulets' barricade, later beneath a perspex cupola, then amid shards of rubble, and finally in a makeshift crypt. The designer Leslie Travers clearly hasn't had to worry about period thrills and frills.
Whatever the production lacks in colour it more than makes up for in its musical values and casting. In the trouser role of Romeo, Sarah Connolly and her co-principal Marie Arnet more than fulfil the considerable vocal demands. Connolly captures the depth of Romeo's passion while Arnet is a radiant, affecting Giulietta. With Edgaras Montvidas a fervent Tebaldo and Nikolay Didenko darkly commanding as Giulietta's dad, the singing more than makes good any dramatic shortfalls.
The chorus conveys a sense of gritty theatre while Manlio Benzi draws lustrous playing from the orchestra. Standing out from strings and woodwind, the beautiful cello solo at the start of the second act and some duetting clarinets add their distinctive voices to those on stage.
Touring to 22 November (www.operanorth.co.uk)