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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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
As I watched this Blu-ray from the San Francisco Opera, I came to think that something like this had happened to Bellini in the second half of this opera; he became the Bellini we all know and love in the rest of his works.
He had the benefit of the outstanding libretto, which was the latest of a number of libretti based on the Italian sources. Felice Romani's Romeo and Tybalt are more noble figures than Shakespeare's. The English characters are immature, boys becoming men without really growing up. That Tybalt dies without undergoing any character development, and that Romeo is only sorry he killed him because he was Juliet's cousin. In this libretto, they both learn of Juliet's (feigned) death while in mortal combat, and both are transformed by remorse, each begging the other to kill him while refusing to do so for the other. Romeo takes the potion because Tebaldo refused to kill him!
At that moment in the story, Bellini's music ratchets up to a new level, and every note of music becomes perfect and inevitable. For the first half of the opera, there is a high level of workmanship, but many of the melodies are negotiable. If Bellini had not been under time pressure, while actually ill, he might have done something different. But from the duel onwards, no human being could have written any better music.
I think the singers under their director and the players under their conductor are carried along into higher spheres as well at that point in this production. I was a little put off by poor Juliet having to wear a skiff through almost the whole opera, though obviously a rich girls' skiff, and having to balance on top of furniture and at the edge of the orchestra pit, a girl on the edge physically as well as emotionally. But the handling of the tomb scene is so sublime as to be insuperable. And the singers, who were doing great work individually for the first half of the opera, become a vocal texture wonderfully knit together, such a feature of the rest of Bellini's work.
I think Romeo made Bellini a genius, and that those who perform or hear Bellini's Romeo can become transmuted as well. Sometimes this happens in a given operatic performance, and it happened for me in this one. I am only sorry I waited until two years after I bought the Blu-ray before actually making the time to watch it!
Opera is all about the singing. Again it exceeded my expectations and was excellent. There were sets,set which were the
modern crap that appear on newer dvd's The sound of the orchestra excellent was excellent. I was engrossed in the excellent
bel-canto singing and the sounds were based on the control of the breath. JD
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Back in 2009, there was a French production of Bellini's " I Capuleti e I Montecchi"...Read more