Glimmerglass's First Bellini Opera
Alice Busch Theater
07/29/2008 - and 29 July, 3*, 7, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24 August
Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Sarah Coburn (Giulietta), Sandra Piques Eddy/Emily Righter (Romeo), John Tessier (Tebaldo), Soon young Park (Lorenzo), Christopher Job (Capellio)
Glimmerglass Opera Chorus and Orchestra, David Angus (Conductor)
Anne Bogart (Director), John Conklin (Sets), James Schuette (Costumes), Christopher Akerlind Lighting), Barney O'Hanlon (Choreographer)
Glimmerglass’s 35th season focuses on works associated with Shakespeare. Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi is exactly that - i.e. associated with, but not taken directly from, Romeo and Juliet. There is no Nurse, no Mercutio, no Paris, no party scene. The opera begins after Romeo and Giulietta have met and fallen in love and Romeo has been banished from Verona. The action begins when Romeo approaches Capellio (Giulietta’s father) pretending to be his own envoy trying to negotiate peace between the feuding factions.
Tebaldo, Giulietta’s betrothed, gets to lead off the Bellinian feast of long-lined arias, and John Tessier, with his distinctive warm sound, gets the work off to a strong vocal start which never lets up.
Sarah Coburn is magisterially accomplished as Giulietta; in fact, at one peak moment she comes close to overwhelming the theater’s acoustics. If she manages to maintain the high vocal quality she displays in this role she is sure to go far. She is slated to perform at this years Wexford Festival and I wish I could be there. Sandra Piques Eddy portrays Romeo as a tough little dude with attitude. At the August 3rd performance it was announced that she would sing despite being indisposed, and her high notes did sound strained although otherwise she was vocally and dramatically ideal in the role. A protracted interval led to the announcement that the cover, Emily Righter, would complete the performance. Ms Righter is a participant in the festival’s training ensemble, the 32-member Young American Artists Program, and she gave an assured performance much to the delight of the supportive audience. (Ms Righter also performed the role for the following two performances.)
Soon young Park makes a fine impression as the knowing advisor, Lorenzo (he’s not a friar in this version). Christopher Job is more than adequate for the somewhat thankless role of the unyielding Capellio.
Conductor David Angus has devised a new edition of the score, eliminating what he claims are intrusive additions to Bellini’s original. It certainly sounds fine in the intimate acoustic of the Alice Busch Theater.
The costumes are modernish with a few cloaks added for effect, and the set is very plain, making use of John Conklin’s two-level Shakespearean framework. Director Anne Bogart and choreographer Barney O'Hanlon have devised very effective stylized confrontations between the battling clans, especially when one considers the brief time available to stage what little action there is. A bit more eye candy would have been welcome, but the spartan look and cursory staging are not really drawbacks as the Bellini scenario does not call for the full renaissance panoply we get in the Gounod opera or the Prokofiev ballet. The prime focus is deservedly on the singing, and the performers carry it off extremely well.
Glimmerglass has managed to get commercial recordings made of at least two of its previous productions, and this new edition of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, with what turns out to be a fresh, youthful cast (with Ms Piques Eddy back in form), would also be a good candidate for such treatment.