Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
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Vincenzo Bellinis bel canto masterpiece I Capuleti e i Montecchi, inspired by the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, is what The New York Times calls an opera of definite dramatic appeal. Joyce DiDonato, winner of the Grammy Award and the ECHO Klassik, and Nicole Cabell as the ill-fated lovers Romeo and Giulietta headline a cast of international stars. Directed by Vincent Boussard in his U.S. debut and led by returning conductor and bel canto specialist Riccardo Frizza, this new co-production has sets created by French opera, theater and dance designer Vincent Lemaire. The production also features stunning costumes by renowned fashion designer Christian Lacroix, a frequent collaborator with Mr. Boussard and a prominent fashion icon known for both his couture house as well as his theater, ballet and opera costumes.
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It's the singing, gentle reader, which is exquisite. All the singer do well, but when Mesdames DiDonato and Cabell take the stage, wonderful sounds ensue. This is true whether the singing is solo or in duets, but with the latter, the blending of the voices and the perfect rapport between the ladies is as close to celestial as these old ears have ever heard. I try to avoid hyperbole in these reviews, because it does not assist prospective buyers, but the musical quality of this performance trumps the issues I have with the staging.
I Capuleti was composed in six weeks, an unusual timing for Bellini, who did not usually compose at the pace of his contemporaries, Rossini and Donizetti. It followed closely Bellini's single "flop", Zaira, and used quite a bit of the music from that work. It enjoyed "immediate and immense success" according to Charles Osborne (The Bel Canto Operas) and never quite disappeared from the operatic repertory. Currently, there are two exceptionally well sung versions in CD format, one with Netrebko and Garanca and the other with Mei and Vassilova.
This performance was Nicole Cabell's first essay at the role, according to her interview. She is a lyric, rather than coloratura soprano and is possessed of a rich, flexible voice with adequate range and profound musicality. I had not heard her before and was delighted to make her aquaintance.
Nothing I can say about Joyce DiDonato has not already been stated with more depth than I am capable of articulating. She is a gifted singer with immense stage presence. Anyone who takes issue with that evaluation should take a peek at Maria Stuarda.
Samir Pirgu does a fine job vocally as Tebaldo; in fact, I was pleasantly surprised by his singing, believing him to be a Mozartian. His acting skills, however, need work, although I fault the director for leaving him without any stage business while the orchestra plays a finale or two.
I am a huge fan of Maestro Frizza and he does not disappoint. Neither do the chorus and orchestra.
Disc quality in Blu ray is definitive; picture and sound are full, detailed and flawless.
This one is a winner, with all my reservations about staging. Opera is, after all, theatre, and as such needs to be seen as well as heard, especially in that wonderful HD MA sound!
Romani rewrote the Vaccai story for Bellini. Both operas were well known in the 1840s and later in Italy and contraltos who could master the low notes often substituted the tomb scene from the Vaccai opera into the Bellini opera (it was published as an appendix by Ricordi to Bellini's opera).In later years a tenor often took the part of Romeo (even in the 1967 Edinburg Festival) but this practice is no longer followed.
The music for the opera has some reworkings from a earlier opera Zaira, by Bellini that was not a success. By changing meters and accents the music was refitted into the story and it succeded.
This opera is seldom performed unfortunately. I have seen it live but once: in a small theater in Washington D.C. in the 1960s. The Romeo was Tatiana Troyanos. I was smitten by her and the opera and have loved both ever since, A previous dvd disc is available from the Ravenna Festival (recorded 2005). The singers do well and the background is a series of moving video images. Clever but it lacks spirit and a good orchestra.
In the preset performance we have an excellent orchestra, decent sets and costumes, good chorus and a great cast of singers.
The Romeo is Joyce Di Donato whom I consider to be one of the few great singers of the day. She is capable of bringing vibrant new life to old scores such as her breathtaking performance in Maria Stuarda as noted by my colleague John Gleeson above.
The Giuletta of Nicole is also well done. She is a rising young star with a strong voice of depth and excellent technique. In solos she is fine and in duets with Romeo the blending is beautiful and the depth of emotion great. Bellini at his finest!
A short note about the production. Yes, this is the age of RegieTheatre and Euro trash. Yes, it was time to sweep away the dust and cobwebs of 19th and early 20th century scenery, sets and practice. In this production some of the scenery bits are clever but quite a few are simply silly. However it is in the last analysis the singing that counts and this recording has it. Highly recommended
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