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Capulets and Montagues at WCO

Kate Lindsey (Romeo), Nicole Cabell (Giulietta), Antony Walker (conductor), I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Washington Concert Opera (photo by Don Lassell)
Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi is an ideal opera for concert performance, a work that features gorgeous singing but is not all that stage-worthy. In fact, I have heard it live only in concert form, most recently on Sunday evening at the Washington Concert Opera's season opener, presented at Lisner Auditorium. The libretto, by Felice Romani, is based not on Shakespeare's play but on the earlier Italian tales that were Shakespeare's sources. The Montecchi and Cappelletti were not families but political factions, from Verona and Cremona, respectively (as mentioned by Dante in the sixth canto of Purgatorio), and Romani's libretto aligns the two families instead with the Guelfs and Ghibellines. Tebaldo here is not Juliet's cousin but the man chosen to marry her, and Lorenzo is not a well-meaning friar but Juliet's doctor. Romeo offers a peace settlement between the two factions if Juliet's father will instead allow Romeo to wed his daughter, a truce that the proud Capellio rejects. For his cruel obstinacy he bears most of the tragic weight of the opera's conclusion.

The cast was led by mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, whom we followed through her years apprenticing at Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, and Santa Fe Opera. All of the promise that seemed so remarkable in her then has come to fruition, and her Romeo showed an admirable increase in the strength of her low range, tested considerably by this score, with no weakening of her pretty top, lovely pianissimo tone (making for a gorgeous, anguished tomb scene, for example), or graceful agility in scales and figures. Soprano Nicole Cabell, who stepped in as a last-minute substitute for Giulietta, continued to rise in my estimation as a musician, with a warm tone that amply filled the hall. The other standout was tenor David Portillo, who also came to our ears first at Wolf Trap Opera and here made a confident, powerful Tebaldo with a beautiful messa di voce.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, Lindsey, Portillo shine in Washington Concert Opera’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” (Washington Post, September 30)
Bass Jeffrey Beruan, whom we also heard in the role of Capellio at Caramoor two years ago, had a big, rumbling sound, effective if sometimes a little woolly as far as being able to discern the center of the pitch. Bass Liam Moran, featured by WCO previously and by Wolf Trap Opera, was mostly effective as Lorenzo, forming the last part of the fine quintet that ends the first act. Music director Antony Walker gave the score his usual careful attention, with only a few ensemble problems in the otherwise unremarkable overture and a harp whose strings had gone slightly flat by the time the instrument was played in the first act for Giulietta's first scene. The male chorus had a virile and well-organized sound, and the four horns made some beautiful contributions that made one regret that only two of their names were printed in the program.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

For an even rarer Shakespearean adaptation, get yourself to Baltimore on Sunday for Franco Faccio's Ameleto. Baltimore Concert Opera collaborates with Opera Southwest to reconstruct a work that hasn't been heard since 1871.

And it's amazingly fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it.