Tragedia lirica in two acts (1830)
Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Felice Romani
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Thursday, March 05 7:30 PM
Giulietta: Anna Netrebko
Romeo: Elina Garanca
Tebaldo: Dario Schmunck
Capelio: Eric Owens
Lorenzo: Giovanni Battista Parodi
Musical Director: Mark Elder
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
This is a wonderful report written by Heather Baker, a regular reader of the blog and blog-friend, after she attended the performance of I Capuleti e I Montecchi at the ROH on 5. March 2009. Thanks Heather for such a live, fresh and moving report!
Students are often said to be penniless, relying on free student overdrafts to help meet the growing need for alcohol and 24-hour “glamour.” Whilst this is true for many of us, including myself I have to admit, at Durham University, four of us Music students decided that we would do something different for a change. Despite my ties with Opera North, a professional Opera Company in the North of England, I have always wanted to see an Opera at the heart of the cultural and musical scene in England: London. Considering it was purely through a chance visit to Anna Netrebko’s official website that made me decide a career in Opera was for me, it was especially nice that the time I was revelling in my music studies, Anna Netrebko was coming back to the British stage. Tickets bought, train seats reserved (a whole three hour travel), we all made our way down to London on a sunny Thursday morning. What was particularly nice was one of my friend’s father managed to check us into two rooms at a Covent Garden 5* hotel which made the whole experience particularly special! At no cost I may add! Our seats were on the left side of the Ampitheatre. Whilst the cheapest, they were by no means bad seats as the quality of the sound and the view was fantastic. I would even say they were probably the best. Even better was the bass-baritone Bryn Terfel sat practically next to me and who shook hands with Simon and myself and had a small conversation with us during the interval.
The Opera itself was just something out of this world! Reviews from the “La Prima” that Monday had said the two lead singers were phenomenal in their craft and that night was no exception. Both sang with maturity, passion and a sense of deep involvement in their parts. It has to be said, however, that Elina Garanca stole the show with her breathtaking voice and musicality as Romeo. Her curtain call certainly raised the loudest cheers amongst the audience and quite rightly too. Anna Netrebko was by no means playing second fiddle, however. Whilst Bellini likes to play with leaps between registers at intervals larger than an octave, Netrebko seemed a little hesitant on a couple of occasions. This, nonetheless, did not detract from her overall performance as Giulietta and she created a character wholly believable if one which was slightly older than a teenager. This role does suit Netrebko very well technically as well as musically and it is only sad that, despite the name, this opera bears no resemblance as such to the Shakespeare tragedy which very much focuses on Juliet rather than Romeo. Netrebko’s job, therefore, was to portray a character which seemed less strong than Romeo’s. Generally, hence the all-male Chorus, this is very much a masculine Opera.
The rest of the principals were not as strong as the females. Eric Owens singing Capellio was not very confident and his Italian diction was not very good. One phrase in particular during the Act 1, Scene 2, made no sense at all and was very mushy in its phrasing. A couple sitting on the other side of us, lamented over how poor Giovanni Battista Parodi’s Lorenzo was and did not applaud him during the curtain call. Whilst I think that rather sad, his and Dario Schmunck’s Tebaldo were vocally rather weak and there were problems with intonation in both parts. The male chorus were on top form, I thought, and added to the production a sense of drama.
I personally thought the production under the design and directorship of Pier Luigi Pizzi was very effective. The Chorus colour coordinated to show off the factions and a classical feel with the pillars and a stone table which doubled as Giulietta’s bed in the second scene. (one rather amusing moment was Garanca leaping off the bed, Netrebko on it, and accidently pushing it backwards so it travelled a few meters across the stage!)
The opera over, the four of us decided that because we were musicians, we would go to the stage door to hopefully speak to the stars of the night. They came, we saw, but for me in particular, no words could come out. It ended up with one of the girls who is Russian to introduce me to Netrebko in Russian and how I was training to be an Opera singer. It is interesting to note that when one is that close to a person they admire, it is easy to lose all one’s senses. Posing for the photograph, Ms. Netrebko put her arm around my shoulder. I was hesitant to do the same; should I even be touching somebody of this calibre? I completely ignored that thought... I must have looked like I was completely out of my mind to Ms. Netrebko, however, as I realised if it wasn’t for this woman, I would be at Durham or elsewhere reading Classics and Ancient Greek, not Music! All in all, it was a fantastic night out which proved that sometimes, going to an Opera in the middle of a large, expensive city needn’t be too pricey. We were very lucky and our facebook profiles are ablaze with photographs and videos of that day which we will no doubt treasure for a very long time.
College of St. Hild & St. Bede, University of Durham