Buxton Festival’s staging of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi – The Capulets and the Montagues –unveiled the night after Beethoven’s Leonore can be summed more quickly than that: outstanding!
The Italian composer knew how to write opera, unlike his near contemporary German counterpart!
The only area of any real contention is the ending which sees Capellio, the Capulet leader, stabbing his daughter, Giulietta (Juliet), to death instead – as everyone knows – of her killing herself to die with Romeo. Why?
What is, or was wrong with Bellini’s ending? Capellio appears on the scene, finds the lovers dead and asks ‘who has done this?’ to which the chorus answer with one voice, ‘You!’
No doubt the production’s director Harry Fehr, who sets the action in modern day Italy with the two factions as opposing gun-toting, knife-wielding armies, had his reasons beyond mere mischief.
Both Stephanie Marshall, an entirely convincing Romeo in every respect, and Sarah-Jane Brandon, a far from shrinking violet as Giulietta, offer stunning singing of not always easy music. Bellini’s bel canto lines are always smooth and firm and meaningfully delivered with panache.
The two voices blend superbly, as well. Performances that would grace any international opera stage, in short.
Luis Gomes has the necessary vocal weapons, too for Tebaldo and Jonathan Best looked and sounded more comfortable as Capellio than he did as Don Fernando 24 hours earlier.
Julian Tovey does what he can for the rather ungrateful role of Lorenzo and, once again, there is super singing from the chorus – the men at least (the women are silent members of the two armies) – and superior playing from the Northern Chamber Orchestra for an admirably idiomatic conductor in Justin Doyle.