I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Opera by V. Bellini
Thanks to William Shakespeare’s immortal play, the whole world knows of the tragic love between Romeo and Juliet. Before the Bard’s rendition made the story internationally popular, however, the story of the two hopeless young romantics was already well-known throughout Italy and enjoyed numerous adaptations. One of the most popular theatre renditions of it, Giulietta e Romeo by Luigi Scevola, dates back to 1818. It served as inspiration to Vincenzo Bellini to compose his wildly popular opera, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, premiered at Venice’s La Fenice on 11 March 1830. Rome’s Teatro Costanzi now revives the work that truly put Bellini on the map.
The success of I Capuleti e i Montecchi came at a crucial time for the struggling Italian composer. His previous stage works had underperformed critically and commercially, the Venetian winter was extraordinarily harsh, and he and librettist Felice Romani were racing against the clock to complete the project. Despite the various difficulties and limiting factors, however, Bellini finally struck gold. The score stands out with emotionality and a distinct edge that complements the heart-wrenching plot wonderfully.
I Capuleti e i Montecchi presents the well-known story of Romeo and Giulietta, but it changes the context from the Shakespearean version. The rivalling factions are not families but the Guelphs and Ghibellines, two staunch Veronese political opponents. As the forbidden romance starts to blossom, Giulietta’s engagement to Tebaldo and the two parties’ intensifying clashes lead the plot to a spectacular boiling point. Bellini’s score plays an active role in raising the tension and suspense that surround the explosive mixture of political intrigue and matters of the heart. At times gentle and melodic, the soundscape can quickly shift to a bombastic crescendo, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. The Rome Opera House revives a true Italian classic.