Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (1801–1835), the Sicilian-born Italian romantic opera composer, known for his famous opera performances Norma and The Puritans, recreated the famous story of the lovers who paid for their passion with their lives, which he has shaped creativity in literature and music since the age of Renaissance.
Many composers tackled the theme of Romeo and Juliet, but unfortunately, only a few of them were successful. The only works still »living« today are Gounod's opera Romeo and Juliet (1867) and Bellini's selodmly performed version from 1830. Bellini created the opera in just six weeks, as he integrated into it a lot of music he had written for his earlier work Zaira.
Although Bellini's creative power was interrupted prematurely, yet it was recognized by many of the leading figures in the arts of the time, including Liszt, Glinka, Chopin, Sand, Musset, Hugo and Dumas. Bellini was not a reformer; he was inspired mainly by Haydn and Mozart; he strived for clarity, the elegance of form and melody, and sought a close connection between music and word. He found his way to the audience essentially with his charm and elegance of the bright vocal melodies, for which he is known.
The Capulets and the Montagues differ from the most known Shakespearean version. They do not convey the whole story, but only the last day of the life of the famous lovers; a feeling of melancholy that unwinds in a astonishing ending. It is an opera without the legendary "balcony scene" that ends with one of the most shocking closing scenes from the opera repertoire. In it, both Romeo and Juliet stay alive to the very end. Before they die together, they sing a duet.
Director Frank Van Laecke, who already directed operas Kat'a Kabanova, Lucia di Lammermoor and The Maid of Orleans on our stage, puts Bellini's version of the famous story in a photo studio in Verona, in the 1950s. Capellio, the godfather to the clan of the Capulets, invites his loved ones to a photographic portraying of the family. Even before the first shot is taken, we hear the crack of a gun. Capulet's son dies on the sofa next to him. The overture begins; Bellini's music is heard in the background. Revenge looms in the air…