OPERA / I Capuleti e i Montecchi - Royal Opera House, WC2

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The Independent Culture
The feuding Capulets and Montagues arrived at Covent Garden on Tuesday night heralded by a bomb scare at the neighbouring Theatre Museum which established the right mood straight away. The fact that stage preparations were disrupted to the point where Bellini's opera had to open as a (free, costumed) concert performance caused little regret. Those who had seen the Pizzi production last time round (1984) seemed remarkably willing to do without it. Such guilelessly opportunistic music - high tragedy chivvied along by bouncing Italian ostinati - is easier to enjoy without the silent-movie stuff it gives rise to on the stage.

When Bellini was not churning out toe-tapping bass lines he specialised in plaintive, decorated melodies spilling like sighs. This was the aspect relished in the conducting of Daniele Gatti: huge ritardandi, tender instrumental solos, long pauses. The orchestra, sounding overexposed without scenic distractions, responded well. Lots of opportunities to compare and contrast Anne Sofie von Otter as a delicious straight-arrow Romeo and young star Amanda Roocroft as the cooing Giulietta.

The men in the all-new cast were less fascinating but included Keith Lewis, bright at the top, a bit unrelaxed as Tebaldo; a trenchant Mark Beesley as Giulietta's father; and Alastair Miles emerging with richness and finesse as the sympathetic Lorenzo.

Further performances 25, 30 Sep, 3, 6, 8, 14 Oct (071-240 1066)

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