We began the evening with Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi. This opera is based on a libretto by Felice Romani, who used the same source material that William Shakespeare used for Romeo and Juliet, and was written for the 1830 Carnival season in Venice. Bellini was only given a month and a half to compose the opera, which he accomplished in part because he recycled music from a previously unsuccessful opera of his, Zaira.
It is considered one of the finest examples of the bel canto singing style, of which Bellini (along with Gaetano Donizetti) was an early master. Tonight’s recording was made in 1975, and features Janet Baker in the trouser role of Romeo, Beverly Sills (who was instrumental in the revival of the art of bel canto singing, along with Dame Joan Sutherland) as Juliet, along with Robert Lloyd, Nicolai Gedda, and Raimund Herincx. Giuseppe Patane leads the New Philharmonia Orchestra and the John Aldis Choir.
Our second piece tonight is a piece by Sergei Prokofiev. Betrothal in a Monastery is a comedy (and quite an interesting musical comedy at that, with a distinct sense of musical whimsy that reminds one of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale) that Prokofiev began in 1940. Prokofiev used a Russian libretto written by himself in collaboration with Mira Mendelson, whom he later married. The work was interrupted by World War II, and was not premiered until November of 1946 at the Kirov Theater.
Tonight’s recording is from 1998, and features Anna Netrebko in one of her early starring roles, along with Evgeny Akimov, Larissa Diadkova, Alexander Gergalov, Nikolai Gassiev, Marianna Tarassova, and Sergey Aleksashkin. Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra & Chorus is directed by Valery Gergiev.