Fabio Biondi Conducts Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Performed by Vivica Genaux, Valentina Farcas, Davide Giusti, Fabrizio Beggi, Ugo Guagliardo; Bel Canto Chorus and Europa Galante; conducted by Fabio Biondi.

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
WORKS: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
PERFORMER: Vivica Genaux, Valentina Farcas, Davide Giusti, Fabrizio Beggi, Ugo Guagliardo; Bel Canto Chorus; Europa Galante/ Fabio Biondi

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In recent decades the sixth of Bellini’s ten completed operas has moved from rarity status to repertory and recording-catalogue standard. Easy to understand why: it’s a compact bel canto music-drama irradiated at its peaks by lyrical poetry that is immediate, potent and captivating. A Romeo and Juliet opera focused almost unwaveringly on the lovers themselves, its opera-house impact depends crucially on their casting.

Glossa’s set, however, recorded in parallel with a 2014 Rieti Festival concert performance, purveys a different approach. Its conductor is the musicologically rigorous Fabio Biondi (whose programme essay is full of historically fine-tuned insights into bel canto performing style). His insistence on intimacy is underpinned by an alert period band – with fortepiano added to the ensemble – and smallish chorus. Instrumentally the reading constantly refreshes listening ears, imbuing Bellini’s famously spare orchestration with tender Romanticism, drawing the pacing out of the notes rather than imposing it on the drama. There are beautiful close-up contributions by Europa Galante’s horn, harp and clarinet.

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For me, though, further involvement is ruled out by Glossa’s cast, especially in comparison with those on existent sets conducted by Riccardo Muti, Roberto Abbado, Bruno Campanella and Donald Runnicles. The youthful-sounding David Giusti (Tebaldo), Fabrizio Beggi (Lorenzo) and Ugo Guagliardo (Capellio) display limited characterising skills; the Romanian Valentina Farcas’s Juliet is deftly portrayed, in a soprano well-schooled but monochromatic. The biggest obstacle to my listening enjoyment is, alas, the single well-known soloist, Vivica Genaux, a singer stylistically attuned to Bellini who unfortunately delivers Romeo in tones alternately fluttery and pantomime-dame chesty. This I Capuleti e i Montecchi, I would say, is one to borrow from the library. Max Loppert