First reactions to last night's premiere of I Capuleti e I Montecchi at the Royal Opera House fo Covent Garden:
The Royal Opera is fortunate to have secured a dream trio to rival the original triumvirate of the 1984 debut of Pizzi's production. But it's Elīna Garanča's Romeo that emerges as the strongest component of the evening. For one thing, she's remarkably convincing as a teenage boy, combining testosterone and a boyish posture with a hypersensitive spirit. Then there's the voice: steely and strongly projected, her strong mezzo is also flexible and expressive, rising to the challenge of the death scene with apparent ease. Together, these qualities make for a knock-out performance, and to be frank I don't think Tebaldo would have the slightest chance of winning a duel against so formidable a Romeo.
Opposite her, Anna Netrebko's Giulietta is scarcely less impressive, indeed she tends to dominate the scenes in which she appears. Following on from her sterling Violetta last year, Netrebko gave a similar performance in terms of temperament: she threw herself into the part wholeheartedly on opening night, using the full length and breadth of the stage to captivate the audience, and she seemed to be united with Garanča in wanting to overcome the stodginess of the staging by creating detail in her acting. There were a couple of shaky moments at the very top of the voice, but on the whole she retains a wonderful richness of tone. In 'Oh! quante volte' she shades down the volume to a minimum and duets beautifully with the harp, while her rendition of 'Ah, non poss'io partire' – the scene in which she says farewell to her father – she sings with a variety of expression that makes the opera seem utterly modern.
This Capuleti has unashamedly been mounted as a star vehicle, and it more than succeeds in that respect. A standing ovation for Netrebko and Garanča was awarded by some members of the audience, and the chance to see them perform with such charisma is certainly special. In many respects Bellini could be better served, I feel, and the production doesn't make for visceral theatre. But with this pair on such great form, you surely won't come away disappointed.
En esta reposición londinense, que podrá verse en jornadas distintas hasta el 11 de abril, Netrebko y Garanca forman un dúo perfectamente compenetrado y de una belleza vocal que quita el aliento.
Garanca domina totalmente el escenario en cuanto aparece: no sólo es su voz de una flexibilidad y expresividad extraordinarias y es capaz de subir sin esfuerzo aparente a las notas más altas, sino que da credibilidad total al personaje de Romeo que interpreta.
No menos expresiva es la Netrebko, intérprete dotada de una voz de gran suavidad y belleza, de gran riqueza tímbrica y de una precisión y sutileza que causan general admiración.
Netrebko and Garanca were just the right pair.
A 32-year-old Latvian, Garanca's voice has both coloratura and some lyric heft, and her death scene was warm and compelling. She matched Netrebko charm for charm in the duet "Ah! mia Giulietta!"
Elina Garanca and Anna Netrebko sing Romeo and Juliet in Bellini's version of the story, and they prove to be as wonderful live as they are on their just-released Deutsche Grammophon recording of the work.
Perhaps they wouldn't score straight tens with those who insist on the purest bel canto style: neither of them being native Italian (Garanca is Latvian, Netrebko Russian), their articulation and colouring of the text is imprecise. Netrebko lacks a firm trill, and Garanca's lowest register is relatively weak. But what fabulously healthy voices they both have, and how thrillingly they wield them, through melancholy aria, dramatic declamation and warmly blended duet.
Garanca's Romeo, looking good in principal-boy wig and tights, is a creature of swaggering bravado, vibrant in tone and confident in style. The audience rightly went wild for her. Netrebko presents a Juliet of naivete and ardour, her fearless spirit reflected in red-blooded singing irradiated by some ethereally floated top notes. You don't look to Netrebko for subtleties of interpretation – she's not a sensitive musician – but there's a passion and commitment in her artistry which charges her with electric star quality.