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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and enchanting gem in a superlative performance!, 1 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Audio CD)
A top level cast of singers (Baker, Sills, Lloyd, Gedda, Herincx), an expert and gifted conductor (Giuseppe Patanè), an high level orchestra (New Philarmonia), an excellent choir (John Alldis): everything makes this 1975 studio recording the reference one.
Someone observes that a part of the cast is too aged for the young roles interpreted; surely it would be true for a stage performance, but here the problem becomes a secondary one and it is minimized by the outstanding artistry of the singers.

Giuseppe Patanè (1932-1989, in turn son of a great conductor, Franco, 1908-1968) reads this opera in the pattern of the best Italian conducting tradition (Sabajno, Votto, De Sabata, Serafin, Galliera, etc.), that is "drying" the orchestral score to its essentiality (that does not mean simplification, but improving musical meaning without overwhelming vocal parts) and keeping it within its functional role, not trying to unnecessarily attract a spotlight on the "Maestro".

All the singers master an excellent Italian pronunciation, so you do not miss an Italian cast (maybe some "r" and some "i" could sound more Italian, but there is a lot of Italian singers that do not pronounce better!).

Beverly Sills, 1929-2007, (Giulietta) is maybe beyond the zenith of her vocal power, but she gives us all the fruits of her interpretative maturity and belcanto artistry: she is always very moving and constantly (tone by tone, word by word) in the right mood.
Her timbre is still fresh enough to credibly render Giulietta's youth; at the same time, it has the right desperate shadowed warmness to convey to the role the increasing sense of sorrow.

Dame Janet Baker (b. 1933) is a convincing and touching Romeo and she tackles with mastery the difficulties of rendering both the manliness (here Romeo is the leader of the huge army that Ezzelino - "ghibellino" - is sending against the "Guelfi" and during a battle has killed Giulietta's brother) and the tenderness of the character.
Hers and Sills' timbre perfectly match, and their duets are astonishingly beautiful and touching.

Nicolai Gedda (b. 1925), in spite of his fifty years, is a perfect Tebaldo, who is as generous and noble as Romeo, but has to stay a step behind him in his capacity of being involved in a relationship based on reciprocal tenderness (Tebaldo actually and deeply loves Giulietta, but he obtains by her father to marry her without first checking her feelings, and that in spite of his own noble reservation: "Ma se avesse il mio contento / a costarle un sol lamento, / ah! piuttosto io sceglierei / mille giorni di dolor, / sì, di dolor, ah mille / giorni di dolor."),

Raimund Henricx (b. 1927 - Lorenzo) sings excellently during the first half of the recording, then he loses something (just a little) in the second half, while the contrary occurs to Robert Lloyd (b.1940 - Capellio), who improves his performance towards the end.

The libretto of Felice Romani, as usual with this gifted poet, is of rare elegance and enchanting for the beauty of the expressive solutions. The story is not based (as very often wrongly reported) on the Shakespeare's drama, but on one of the Matteo Bandello's Novels, that consolidated a long preceding narrative tradition. Here we have no mothers and no nurses (and Lorenzo is not a friar).
From a dramaturgical point of view, it functions very well, far better, for instance, of the one by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsa for Rossini's Otello.

Everything else is the marvelous, enchanting, (old fashioned but evergreen!) Bellini, with his unique capacity of finding out and rendering the essentiality and the depth of a sentimental or psychological situation through the purest, simplest and, at once, most difficult device: a melody.
At the same time, even if harmony is not particularly sophisticated, orchestral colours are attentively treated and they are rich and varied, and, above all, elegantly context-sensitive.

I can hardly understand why Claudio Abbado staged a version (now abandoned) with a tenor in the role of Romeo, so leaving Giulietta as the sole feminine voice and overlapping Romeo's and Tebaldo's characters. Bellini's original solution (he composed the part for the mezzo-soprano Giuditta Grisi, 1805-1840) is a very successful one to match manliness with tenderness in a post-adolescent character. In my opinion a light tenor would not have functioned so well, risking the ridiculous on the manliness side.

The sound: from a 1975 Abbey Road Studio stereo recording, digitally remastered in 2004, one might reasonably expect something a bit better. Orchestral sound layers are a bit confused; voices here and there seem to come from a sort of background and sometimes are a bit echoed (is it a conscious attempt to render a real stage situation?); some tracks start too much on the attack.
Anyway, anything of all that cannot remotely affect this Romani-Bellini's gem and the splendid artistry of this performance.

The libretto of this incredibly cheap edition is published for download on EMI Opera website.

Personally, I do not like the too sensual cover, considering that Giulietta here is a candide vergin ("Qui m'annoda, qui mi serra / un poter d'amor più forte. ... Quello, ah! quello del dovere, / della legge, dell'onor, si, sì dell'onore.") and that the main aspect Romani-Bellini wish to underline is the contrast between a pure and transcendental love of two noble souls and the conventional "terrestrial" rules, so dangerous if applied with blind insensitiveness. Surely the cover of the original LPs (see: Bellini: I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Gesamtaufnahme, italienisch: London 1975) [Vinyl Schallplatte] [3 LP Box-Set]) was a bit too "boring" and old fashioned, but I think it would have been possible to find a better representation ... evidently nowadays sensuality can sell better than idealistic love and other editions have found some even more saucy solutions (see, for instance: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi or I Capuleti E I Montecchi (Abbado, Kasarova, Mei, Vargas)).

Anyway, in my opinion, every belcanto lover must have this pair of enchanting CDs!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite opera., 23 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Audio CD)
My favourite opera, bought originally on vinyl, now on CD only because I'm the biggest ever Janet Baker fan. Love the music and Bellini's wonderful orchestrations, especially the woodwind solo's. Gedda sounds tired and Sills a little past her best but Dame Janet,s voice has never sounded so beautiful, her interpretation as the young Romeo is peerless. Great.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly ravishing, 19 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Audio CD)
This is bel canto opera as it should be. Janet Baker is perfect as Romeo - her anger and ardour in Si fuggire - show dazzling artistry and the following duet with Beverley Sills, Ah! Crudel. d'onor ragioni, is breathtakingly poignant. Sills may be older than most playing Giulietta, but what a voice! - and the two meld beautifully. Gedda, Lloyd and Henricx show the occasional waver but this does not detract from the emotion that comes through in their singing.

Bellini's music is ravishing - and whilst this opera is little known compared to some others - it is fun listening to the phrases which then turn up fully developed in Norma, i Puritani and la Sonnambula.

Perfection.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously good., 3 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Audio CD)
I have moved gradually from Verdi (still brilliant) through Berlioz, Dvorak etc and found the stunning Bellini. Romantic, melodic, powerful stuff. Just wish he had composed more.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Audio CD)
all ok.
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Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini (Audio CD - 2004)
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