I Capuleti e I Montecchi at Buxton

Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi is no masterpiece. Drawing on Matteo Bandello’s account of the Romeo and Juliet legend, rather than Shakespeare, its creaking plot is typical of early 19th century Italian opera, combining tensions between love and loyalty with tyranny and military escapades. Its strength lies in its vocalism, the intertwining of languid melodic lines, most notably in the duets of the lovers. If conductor Justin Doyle was not able to provide quite the seamless stretching of orchestra sound required for this purpose, the Buxton performance nevertheless featured two young singers fully capable of meeting the bel canto challenges. Soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon as Giulietta may have taken the honours for sheer beauty of sound and vocal technique, but her rather undifferentiated characterisation made her too stereotyped a figure dramatically. In contrast, Canadian Stephanie Marshall’s portrayal of Romeo was sharp-edged, lively and engaging. She moved most convincingly from masculine swagger, through romantic passion, to pathos. An outstanding performance in all respects. Tenor Luis Gomes was an energetic, full-throated Tebaldo and Jonathan Best, as usual, made much of his relative brief appearances as Capellio. Harry Fehr’s astute, powerful production, set in a modern war-torn, crumbling state (designer Yannis Thavoris) valiantly strived to give coherence to the piece.