Opera Reviews
24 June 2024
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Bellini returns to La Scala with a trio of female leads

by Silvia Luraghi

Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
23 January 2022

Marianne Crebassa (Romeo), Lisette Oropesa (Giuletta)

Vincenzo Bellini’s operas are not among the most frequent works performed at La Scala. The current production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi brought back the composer’s version of the Romeo and Juliet story after over 30 years of absence (the last time it was shown was in 1989), which seems a short time when compared to Norma (last time seen in 1977) or I puritani (with no less than 50 years of absence). While the reasons for this neglect remain unexplained, this year’s offering is a welcome return that opens up hopes for more attention to Bellini’s operas in the near future.

Director Adrian Noble staged the action in a generic 1930s setting, with gangs of political opponents ravaging Verona. The sets designed by Tobias Hoheisel and costumes by Petra Reinhardt were functional to the director’s concept. The lights designed by Jean Kalman and Marco Filibeck played a major role in the production with the mostly dim settings brightened up only when Giulietta appeared in her room in her long white gown, a spot of light in an otherwise gloomy atmosphere.

The strength of the production lay in the vocal cast. Soprano Lisette Oropesa was a superb Giulietta. The singer sounded at ease in the impenetrable score, which she tackled with a beautifully colored, perfectly tuned voice. She gave life to a youthful but at the same time thoughtful Giulietta, contrasting with Romeo’s adolescent look. This was mezzo Marianne Crebassa, whose light colored voice and skinny figure fit the character of a teenager, an interpretation highlighted by the impulsiveness demanded by the libretto and the music. Crebassa was also vocally compelling, though sometimes slightly at odds with the demanding range of the score.

Tenor Jinxu Xiahou mastered the role of Tebaldo with a ringing and well sustained voice. I also found compelling bass Jongmin Park as Capellio in spite of a somewhat rumbling sound, but he was the villain and this helped him sound scary. Bass Michele Pertusi as Lorenzo was a luxury cast; a skilled actor, he was a sympathetic partner for the two young lovers.

The most anticipated feature of the production was conductor Speranza Scappucci, the first Italian woman to conduct an opera at La Scala. Maestra Scappucci showed a tight grip of the orchestra, and conducted with energy and care for all instruments, as well as for the singers, deserving a warm welcome in the Milanese pit. The singers received their share of applause at the end, with a well deserved ovation for Oropesa.

Text © Silvia Luraghi
Photo Brescia e Amisano © Teatro alla Scala
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