Glimmerglass Opera’s production of Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” on Saturday night had some of the best singing of the season.
Based generally on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the two-act opera was a showpiece for mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy in the pants role of Romeo and soprano Sarah Coburn as Giulietta. Both are powerhouse singers with big voices who navigated the long, arduous but lyrically beautiful lines of the several arias with strength, conviction, strong phrasing and passion.
In Eddy’s solo arias, her lower range, with its strongly edged chest tones, was particularly impressive. Coburn showed she could turn quickly from feathery, delicate high notes of much piquancy to fiery soaring tones that filled the hall. Her “Oh quante volte” and “Morte io non temo,” which were marvelous, also displayed agile coloratura and a variety of color. Together, their chemistry was one of tenderness and charm, which underpinned their supple techniques most notably in “Si, fuggiere.”
They were amply supported by the superbly projected tenor of John Tessier, as Tebaldo, Romeo’s rival; bass Christopher Job, as Capellio; and baritone Soon Young Park, as Lorenzo. The 16-member male chorus was equally stalwart.
What set the tone of the production, however, was the lighting and dark palette. The near capacity crowd had no doubts that what it was seeing was a tragedy. As designed by Christopher Akerlind, the singers moved in a stark white spotlight or a grey blue light that created shadows or an ominous darkness out of which a person would suddenly appear. Costume designer James Schuette put knee- length black leather coats on the chorus and a similar coat and suit on Romeo. Only Lorenzo in a tan suit and Giulietta in a virginal white long dress provided color.
Those costumes and something in the way director Anne Bogart had the players move and group captured a feeling of the Risorgimento. That isn’t surprising, considering that Bellini, who was Sicilian, and his librettist Felice Romani wrote at a time when Sicily was experiencing upheaval. The opera premiered in 1830, right in the thick of that epic period.
The orchestra under conductor David Angus, who had revised the score, embraced that Sicilian fervor with enthusiasm.
Other performances are July 29, Aug. 3, 7, 9,12, 15, 18, 24.