BELLINI: I Capuleti e I Montecchi

|Cristina Gallardo-Domas|Daniela Barcellona|
I Capuleti e I Montecchi
Vincenzo Bellini, music and Felice Romani, libretto
Premiere opera DVD 5269
Soloists, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Guido Adjmone-Marsan, conductor

Surely the reader of this reviewer is passionate about opera – why else, faithful one, have you found yourself at the fount of information and wisdom knows as Opera Today? Therefore, the need for an outfit such as Premiere Opera need not be belabored – true opera lovers know that there sometimes arises a need to have a performance that cannot easily be obtained, and that need may trump the desire to have the recording, (whether only audio, or visual as well, as in the case of this DVD) be of optimal quality.
So what we have here is a performance of April 7, 2002, at the Teatro Cuyas in the lovely Canary Islands. The opera is Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, and the star gracing the stage as the lovely young Capulet is Cristina Gallardo-Domas. Perhaps it is her fans who will be most grateful to Premiere Opera for making available a record of the performance. Not to be slighted, however, is her imposing Romeo, a mezzo/trouser role. Daniela Barcellona is a rising star, and the reasons why are evident here. And Bellini lovers, as your reviewer knows well, are apt to want most any document of the master’s work, as the operas get performances but not as often as his fans might wish.
For the modest price Premiere Opera asks, a modest reward is received. The audio and picture are not ideal, to say the least. The audio, thankfully, is acceptable – the Teatro Cuyas orchestra (otherwise unnamed) responds with sweet enthusiasm to the leadership of maestro Adjmone-Marsan, who resists the urge to pull the tempo around. Bellini’s long melodic lines flow with gentle urgency, and the singers always seem to be right with the beat.
Visually, there are two problems, only one of which is on Premiere Opera’s debit sheet. The DVD is apparently a copy of a video produced in house by three cameras, so there are, thankfully, a small number of angles. However, the picture in closer views takes on a fuzzy fog the shade of whatever color is predominant in the background – mostly blue, but pink in Juliet’s act one bedroom scene. From a distance the color is more distinct, but the figures are less well delineated.
The staging, however, is so bland that a viewer can’t regret the less than satisfactory picture all that much. Basically a unit-set of stone block walls, the stage is bare in most scenes – excepting a regal seat for Juliet’s father in the first act, a bed for Juliet later, and the a slab for her body in the final scene. The costumes are traditional and appear, to the extent they can be fairly evaluated, tasteful and appropriate.
Despite the visual flaws, having something to look at is still rewarding as the two leads spin out some fine singing. Barcellona, a tall, strongly-built woman, has wonderfully strong breath control for Bellini’s extended lines, and though the voice can’t be called remarkably colorful, the basic tone captures all we need to know about Romeo’s passion and callowness.
Gallardo-Domas embodies Juliet with simple gestures and effortless vocal beauty. Romani’s libretto comes nowhere near Shakespeare’s in the complexity of the characterization, especially as Juliet is concerned, but then again, the opera is based on the sources Shakespeare drew from, and not on the Bard’s play. For example, Tybalt (Tebaldo here) survives and grieves with Romeo over Juliet’s supposed death. For all that, Gallardo-Domas’s talent makes her the focus of every scene in which she appears.
And it must be said that other than the opera title, date of performance and theatre name, Premiere Opera has offered this review copy with no other documentation of any kind. The singers and conductor as identified were found through online research by your reviewer. Unfortunately, the very good performers who bring Juliet’s father and Friar Laurence to life could not be identified. The tenor who takes on Tebaldo is a Giorgio Casciari. He sings with fair power though not much elegance. Unfortunately, he is also about half as tall as Barcellona, which gives the act two duet/aborted duel between the two a comic aspect.
So with this Capuleti DVD a good performance of a very good opera with a mostly young, skilled cast has been preserved, though not as well preserved as one might have hoped. Sometimes the opera lover has to accept such limitations, and the right performance will even make said lover forget any flaws of presentation. For fans of Bellini or perhaps Gallardo-Domas, this DVD may be one such performance.
Chris Mullins