Enjoy Vincent Broussard's superb I Capuleti e Montecchi, Vincenzo Bellini 1830 bel canto masterpiece! This production features the talented Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell as the two star-crossed lovers, joined by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Frizza. The costumes are designed by Christian Lacroix.
The origins of Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e Montecchi offer insight into challenging constraints faced by composers in Italy during the 19th century. After the poor reception of his last opera, Zaira, by early 1830, the composer needed to win back the public's good graces. Under pressure, Bellini and his librettist Felice Romani managed to put together I Capuleti e Montecchi in barely 7 weeks, creating a work indebted to their previous creations: he incorporated a considerable amount of reworked musical material taken from Zaira and Romani used a version of Giulietta e Romeo he had origianally written for Vaccai. In the end, the opera proves to be a great success: by 1833 it had already been performed in Dresden, Madrid, Paris and London. One interesting choice by Bellini was casting Romeo as a mezzo-soprano. Claudio Abbado’s 1966 la Scala production of the opera included a transcription of Romeo’s part for tenor, but this alternative interpretation of the role never became standard.
While writing his libretto, Felice Romani chose to return to the first 15th century Italian sources of the fabled love story. The most famous, by Matteo Bandello, dates to 1554, and was the original source for Shakespeare when writing his own Romeo and Juliet. Deviating from Shakespeare’s version, Romani chooses to refocus the story on its political context, and incorporates a scene omitted by the English playwright: Giulietta, believed dead by Romeo, awakens in the tomb just before Romeo's death, allowing the two lovers to exchange once more before they die.
The tale is set in 13th century Verona and follows the political rivalry between the Capuleti, led by Capellio, from the Guelphs faction, and the Ghibellines one, the Montecchi, led by Romeo. Giulietta, Capellio’s daughter, should marry Tebaldo, but the young girl’s heart only beats for Romeo. The implacable hatred between the Capuleti and the Montecchi relentlessly leads the two lovers to their deaths.
Photo: © San Francisco Opera