Opera Scotland

Capuleti e i Montecchi I Capuleti e i Montecchi; The Capulets and Montagues

Music
Vincenzo Bellini (born Catania, 3 November 1801; died Puteaux, nr Paris, 23 September 1835)

Text
Felice Romani

Source
Italian short story Giulietta e Romeo by Matteo Bandello (1485-1561).

Premières
First performance: Venice (Teatro la Fenice), 11 March 1830.
First UK performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 20 July 1833.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 30 August 1967.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Background
Bellini was working in Venice on a staging of Il Pirata, when the withdrawal by another composer prompted the theatre management to commission a new work from him. There was little time available and the subject was chosen because Bellini’s usual librettist, Romani, had written a Giulietta e Romeo a few years earlier for Vaccai, and was able to alter his work to suit Bellini. Also, the previous work by Bellini, Zaira, based on Voltaire’s tragedy, had been premiered at Parma only a few months before, but had been something of a disappointment to the Parmesan audience. Rather than rework Zaira for another theatre, Bellini recycled much of its music into the new piece, which was an immediate success.

As with Zaira, the role of the hero was a travesti part, sung by a female singer. In the 1960s when Capuleti was given its first modern outings, a decision was taken to give the part of Romeo to a tenor. The effect of this, whatever its dramatic advantages may have been, was to upset the musical balance. It only took a short time for this to be accepted, and performances nowadays are normally presented with a female Romeo. The Edinburgh Festival performances were the second outing for a Holland Festival staging which later went to La Scala. All performances were conducted by Claudio Abbado and featured Giacomo Aragall as Romeo and Luciano Pavarotti as Tybalt. Edinburgh's Anna Moffo followed Margherita Rinaldi, and was, in turn, succeeded by Renata Scotto.

Characters
Giulietta – Juliet, Capulet’s daughter (soprano).
Romeo, leader of the Montagues (mezzo-soprano).
Lorenzo, a Montague (bass).
Tebaldo – Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin (tenor).
Capellio – Capulet, Juliet’s father (bass).

Plot Summary
At least for British audiences, Capuleti has suffered because the subject matter, clearly that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is hardly as effective and has a seriously abbreviated cast of characters. However Shakespeare’s source for his plot was the story by Bandello, and other writers had also used that as a source. Romani had made use of later Italian and French versions of the story, He did not use Shakespeare.

The Cast

Capellio
 leader of the Capuleti, Giulietta's father
Giulietta
 Capellio's daughter
Lorenzo
 a kinsman of Romeo
Romeo
 leader of the Montecchi
Tebaldo
 a kinsman of Capellio

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