I Capuleti e I Montecchi

One of many musical versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, of which Bernstein’s West Side Story is arguably the most popular, this exquisite opera was composed in only a month and a half for the famous Venice Carnival and based on an Italian libretto, Guilietta e Romeo. Bellini’s rendition is made even more intriguing by its use of Italian names, which are fitting due to the story’s setting in Verona, and by its number of different twists from the Shakespeare. The Capuleti and Montecchi (Capulets and Montagues) are political rivals rather than feuding families. Juliet (Giulietta) is betrothed, not to Paris but to her cousin Tybalt (Tebaldo). Friar Laurence (Lorenzo) is actually Guilietta’s doctor and also her confidant; in that sense, her “Father Confessor.” He does remain the instigator of the poison subplot. Romeo spends a good chunk of the opera trying to persuade Giulietta to run away with him. Torn, she declares that she would rather die of a broken heart. How noble! The most famous aria is“O! Quante volte” (“How many times”), in which Guilietta longs for Romeo. This has become a staple of famous sopranos who specialize in the Bel Canto repertoire, which includes such operas as Lucia di Lammermoor and Norma.

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