Left - Catherine Carby (Romeo) & Hye Seoung Kwon (Giulietta). Photos - Jeff Busby
Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues), though not based on Shakespeare, tells the timeless tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet.
Orpha Phelan’s production (a co-production with Opera North (UK) and Opera Ireland) is specifically set in no specific time or place. Drawing on the minimalist tradition of Japanese Noh theatre, the design (Leslie Travers) was strong and stark, but lacking in a coherent style. The brown uniforms of the warring political factions were drab and unattractive, in contrast to the beautifully oppressive shattered light box that was Juliet’s chamber. The disparity between the sheer beauty and lyricism of Bellini’s music, and the harsh severity of the environment was, however, very effective, emphasising the tragedy of love striving against conflict.
Bellini is considered the master of bel canto, unrivalled by his contemporaries. The art of bel canto composition and singing is to express character and feeling through the caressing of melody. As Romeo and Juliet, Catherine Carby and Hye Seoung Kwon brought the technical beauty of Bellini’s music and expression to life with considered vocal performances. But the passion and longing, the magnetic attraction, the intensity of the love which is the heart of the story, was not realised. The awkward silence before applause as Carby and Kwon kissed said it all.
However, the second act was much better, Carby and Kwon immersing themselves into the tragedy; the finale, in which Juliet awakes to find Romeo dying (a slightly more dramatic ending to Shakespeare), was heart-wrenching.
The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told again and again, but it has yet to lose its power.
Opera Australia presents
The Capulets and the Montagues (I Capuleti e i Montecchi)
A co-production with Opera North (UK) and Opera Ireland
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Venue: State Theatre, the Arts Centre
Evenings: April 14, 22, 28; May 1, 7, 9 @ 7.30pm
Matinee: April 18 @ 1pm
Duration: 2 hours & 45 minutes with one 30-minute interval
Free Opera Talks: May 1 & 7 - 45 minutes before performances
Tickets: Single tickets available from $55-$229 | A children’s price of $45-$50 is available for all performances
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166, the Arts Centre Box Office or www.opera-australia.org.au