Sunday, August 16, 2009


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 16th of August 2015 ay 6.03 - 9.15 pm
Sunday 23rd of August 2009 at 3 - 6 pm

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi, an opera in two acts
Tebaldo........................ Yosep Kang
Capellio....................... Matthias Hausmann
Lorenzo........................ Nahuel di Pierro
Romeo......................... Elina Garanca
Juliet............................ Ekaterina Siurina
Geneva Grand Théâtre Chorus, German Radio Phil, Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern/Karl Mark Chichon (recorded in Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden by German Radio, Saarb)
Tebaldo........................ Dario Schmunck
Capellio........................ Eric Owens
Lorenzo........................ Alastair Miles
Romeo.......................... Elina Garanca
Giulietta......................... Anna Netrebko
Chorus & Orch Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Mark Elder
(recorded in performance by the BBC)

LIBRETTO (Italian)
RECORDING (sampler)
(Netrebko and Garanca in Vienna)
Garanca is a mezzo soprano, but she can sing top C.
The set I have is from the same London theatre in 1985: Agnes Baltsa (Romeo), Edita Gruberova (Juliet), Gwynne Howell (Capulet), John Tomlinson (Laurence), Dano Raffanti (Tybalt).

Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues, rather than the Catapults and the Montages, or Cataleptics and the Monotechnics), also known as Giulietta e Romeo (1830), just to be different. Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) had the same short lifespan as Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791). (My dear piano teacher, in Balmain, in the years around 1947, was named Mrs Bellini.)

Even after he had completed the Ring, Wagner praised this opera, along with Norma, as exhibiting true passion and emotion, as well as melody, and he said he had learned from it (adding that Brahms had not!). With the right soprano, he added, it can carry you away.

Cecilia Bartoli has revived interest in one of the sopranos who played Romeo (another was Richard's niece Johanna Wagner, in 1856, in London) namely Maria Malibran (née Garcia, 1808 - 1836). You can buy an audio disc of Cecilia singing Maria's songs, and see a documentary about her traveling Malibran Museum.

The story in Felice Romani's libretto is not quite the same as in Shakespeare's drama. Friar Laurence is now Lorenzo, physician and adviser to Capellio, the leader of the Capulets; he does not marry the ill-fated couple, but he does provide the potions and poisons. Tybalt (Tebaldo) is the one engaged to marry Juliet in this version.

Act 1.1 : A hall in Capellio's palatial mansion in Verona
Romeo, not a boy, is the leader of the Montagues, and he has killed Capellio's son; the Capulets swear vengeance against them. Tebaldo is in love with Capellio's daughter Giulietta, and Capellio declares they will be married that day, rejecting Lorenzo's advice that the feud with the Montagues should be ended and that the unwell girl [a love-sick teenager] should not be dragged to the altar. Tebaldo (Tybalt) is hesitant, but Capellio (Capulet) reassures him. Romeo (incognito) comes in and offers a peace treaty, to be sealed with a marriage, Romeo and Juliet! The Capulets reject this offer and vow to continue the war.

Act 1.2 : Giulietta's room
She ponders over the impending wedding celebrations and her own unhappiness. Lorenzo brings Romeo in, and the lovers greet each other passionately. Romeo's plea for her to elope with him is resisted: her duty to her father and her honour hold her back. Romeo threatens to make a scene and fight to the death with Capellio, but is persuaded to leave.

Act 1.3 : A courtyard in Capellio's house
The chorus sings: "Joyful night where Love smiles", and then Romeo the party-pooper enters, in disguise again, and the Montagues put the guests to flight. Giulietta is alone and sings about her conflicting loyalties. The two lovers have another futile discussion about eloping. This time Capellio and Tebaldo and the Capuletti confront him, and eventually realize that he is Romeo. The Montagues burst in and the act ends with a grand ensemble, predicting much carnage and slaughter.

Act 2.1-2 : Same place as Act 1.3
Giulietta is alone, wondering about the outcome of the violent confrontation, but Lorenzo tells her that Romeo is safe, and warns her that she will soon be taken to Tebaldo's castle, so she must take his potion and go into a deathlike coma. Her father enters and tells her to prepare for the wedding, but she says she is sick unto death. Romeo arrives later, unaware of Lorenzo's plan. His sword-fight with Tebaldo is interrupted by Giulietta's funeral procession.

Act 2.3 : The chamber of tombs
The usual story, Romeo thinks she is dead, and takes poison. Giulietta revives, ready for the great elopement; she wants to die too, but he tells her to live on and visit his grave. But when he dies she is so stricken with grief she falls dead on his body. [As we said, Wagner liked this opera, and this may be where he got the idea of making his heroines "sink lifeless" to the ground (Elsa, Kundry) or onto the body of her beloved (Isolde).]

The Capulets and the Montagues come in; all are horrified. "Killed by whom?" Capellio asks. Lorenzo and the Montagues respond in unison: "By you, callous man (spietato)".

The benefits of recycling are demonstrated by this opera: Bellini turned his failed opera Zaira (which was hissed in Parma) into one that would appeal to the public, by inserting the pieces into the great love story and 'tale of woe' of 'Juliet and her Romeo'.


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