Romeo and juliet

Director Bill McCallum
Composer/Musical Director Libby Larsen
Choreographer Carl Flink
Dramaturg Carla Steen

Men's vocal ensemble Cantus

Men's vocal ensemble Cantus

The acclaimed "premier men's vocal ensemble in the United States" (Fanfare), in an artistic collaboration with the Guthrie Theater, re-imagines Shakespeare's tragic love story through original music, text and movement to create a distinctive theatrical experience. The production will premiere in spring 2018 and will be available for limited engagement presentations in the 2018–2019 season.

“Intellectually, emotionally and musically rich”StarTribune

“Exalting finesse…expressive power.”Washington Post



Although Cantus is a collection of voices, we operate as a true chamber music ensemble, not as a traditional choir with a director. In chamber music, all voices towards the artistic product are equal without hierarchy, and the best idea is what eventually takes stage, regardless of where it comes from. In short, we simply cannot do our work without relying on, trusting, and believing in each other. The only way forward for us musically is together.

We also pride ourselves in telling stories of shared human experiences. On the surface level, Romeo and Juliet is one of the most well-known romances throughout literature. However, the ultimate lesson in the tragedy comes from the death of love and hope wrought from hate and prejudice. Two tribes consumed by loathing and chaos (who have even forgotten the reason they are at war in the first place), sadly, is a tale far too familiar and recognizable today.

In our increasingly divided world, we as a people tend to focus more on differences than similarities. In Cantus’s dramatic and musical retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we hope to bring light to the fact that our only way forward as a society is together.

—Chris Foss, Artistic Council/Programming and Cantus ensemble member


Director's Note

Director Bill McCallum

Director Bill McCallum

Composer/Musical Director Libby Larsen

Composer/Musical Director
Libby Larsen

Romeo and Juliet is, of course, a great tragic love story. It is a story of a world embroiled in factional conflict, and of the near impossibility for love and beauty to flourish in such a world. It is ultimately a story of the sacrifices humanity makes at the alter of tribalism. The play suggests that there is hope, however: if we can feel the deaths of Romeo and Juliet as though they are our own children, perhaps we’ll be moved, as Capulet and Montague are at the end of the play, to create a world in which our children no longer kill themselves and each other in senseless acts of hatred and desperation. One only needs to open the paper, surf the web, or watch the evening news to see how relevant the play remains.

Romeo and Juliet is one of those stories that has become a part of the collective consciousness of our culture. As such, the story is extraordinarily resilient and infinity adaptable. It has been re-imagined and re-invented through the ages as opera, ballet, film, musical theater, graphic novel, animated film, and through countless stage adaptations and updates. There is something fundamentally human in Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers, something immediately recognizable, and unremittingly sad.

Cantus’s Romeo and Juliet joins this storied tradition of reimagining this great play. In our production, Cantus takes on the role of Chorus, a traveling band of ageless, timeless troubadours, charged with the task of telling this story each time another of our children is sacrificed because of our hatred and tribalism. Music, Cantus’s medium of expression, is uniquely suited to evoke and convey the emotional heart of the play, providing a direct link to the emotional life of the audience. Animated and directed by the Chorus, four actors playing multiple roles embody all of the characters in the play. Shakespeare’s text, though truncated, remains intact—sometimes sung by the ensemble, sometimes spoken by the actors. Original musical compositions by Grammy Award winner Libby Larsen and movement choreography by Carl Flink allow for a sort of magical realism to enter into the storytelling, providing a smooth transitional link between the the heightened spoken language of Shakespeare’s verse, and the virtuosic musical expression of Cantus Vocal Ensemble. Existing in this heightened state, oscillating between music and poetry, language and emotion, harmony and discord, Cantus’s Romeo and Juliet is a completely original take on this timeless classic.


June 22–July 2/July 20–23, 2015 WORKSHOP

Sarah Agnew
Kris Nelson
Chloe Armao
Casey Hoekstra

April 25–27, 2016 WORKSHOP

Jim Lichtscheidl
Tracey Maloney
Casey Hoekstra
Eleanor Dendy



Paul de Cordova
Charity Jones
Stuart Gates
Eleanor Dendy