Artscape Theatre is a favorite venue in Cape Town and last night I attended a performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi – The Capulets and Montagues. In this creative production, Cape Town Opera (CTO) collaborates with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School to present Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s work. It’s based on Shakespeare’s classic play and Luigi Scevola’s tragedy Giulietta e Romeo.
Vincenzo Bellini wrote I Capuleti E I Montecchi for the 1830 Carnival Season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It was an enormous success and later appeared at King’s Theater in London, the Paris Opera, and on the Swedish stage.
I Capuleti has “endlessly long, melancholy vocal lines. In the first act finale Romeo and Juliet sing a long unison melody with only brief pauses for breath.”
Bellini cast the star-crossed lovers as a soprano and mezzo-soprano featuring his “trademark sensuous duets”. The libretto by Felice Romani is a “reworking of Romeo and Juliet” with a simplified story line. The five soloists are Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s father Capelio, Lorenzo a physician, and Juliet’s betrothed Tebaldo. As the opera opens, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love.
“With his melancholy melodies, Bellini aims straight for our hearts, giving us not a moment’s doubt of the young lovers’ feelings for one another.”
The opera features a “youthful cast from UCT Opera School and CTO’s Young Artist Programme“. Jeremy Silver, Director of the UCT Opera School, conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Steven Stead directs the performance and Marvin Kernelle is CTO Chorus Master. Michael Mitchell designed the set and costumes, while stage lighting is by Kobus Rossouw.
The story of Romeo and Juliet inspired hundreds of operas. Shakespeare used life in the Renaissance Period to develop the plot for his play. Bellini’s opera applies “bel canto elegiac styleis” to emphasize the “poignancy of the love story”.
“Bellini’s opera spins out extended threads of wistful, longing song in passages that are among the best of the bel canto elegiac style.”
- Giulietta – Brittany Smith Soprano
- Romeo – Ané Pretorius Mezzo-Soprano
- Tebaldo – Tylor Lamani Tenor
- Lorenzo – Niël Stapelberg Tenor
- Capelio – Thando Zwane Baritone
- Cape Town Opera Chorus
- University of Cape Town Symphony Orchestra
The highly emotional two-act performance – with more than one person shedding a tear – was a total delight, BIG smile!