theme and variations

(c) Robert Kusel

well, this capuleti was the first one i owned before the dresden, the cd recording, the Liege performance, etc. For over a couple of months, I listened to it quite a bit on repeat (way back, nearly 2 years ago). And the more i listened, the more i got irritated, finally to a point I quit it altogether! As is generally the case, after listening to snippets of your (my) “perfect” version, everything else got compared, dissected, analyzed down to the sweat pores. But! since i do claim am open minded (it’s really true!), I really do enjoy each performance on its own ground… Yet it took me 2 years to finally got back to this recording again this past week. Why now? methinks I’ve finally saturated my “perfect” performance version, not in term of getting tired of listening to it, but rather to a point that I’m now interested in other versions to enjoy the differences, the spontaneity, the unknowns, the dynamics of a live performance.

There are many things I love about this radio broadcast. Particularly the very nice descriptions of the scenes and set by the host, as well as the richness of knowledge on the history of the opera itself as offered by Dr. Philip Gossett during intermission. I like also the chorus, the tempo, the Romeo…

(c) Robert Kusel

Anyhow, here’s the performance in its entirety. I always enjoy them this way, uncut, just so you can form your own feeling. It’s actually fun listening to the tuning at the beginning, almost gives you the impression it’s live (when the goosebumps building up 🙂 ). If you do finish listen to the whole thing, I’d love to chit chat in the comment box below about how we like it.

October 2001 radio broadcast
Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Tebaldo tenor, FABIO SARTORI
Capellio bass-bar., JEFFREY WELLS
Giulietta soprano, ANDREA ROST
Lyric Opera of Chicago

“When singing Bellini music, loud is not dramatic, expressiveness is dramatic.” — Vesselina Kasarova

Act 1 Scene 1a (overture, opening chorus, Tebaldo)
Act 1 Scene 1b (Romeo’s entrance aria)
Act 1 Scene 2a (Giulietta’s entrance aria)
Act 2 Scene 2b (Romeo & Giulietta duet)
Act 1 Scene 3 (quintet)
Intermission — Philip Gossett’s intro to history of the opera
Act 2 Scene 1 (Giulietta)
Act 2 Scene 2 (duet Romeo & Tebaldo)
Act 2 Scene 3 (Tomb scene)


About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

10 Responses to theme and variations

  1. Eyesometric says:

    I don’t know yet whether I love this ( can’t think of one single reason why I wouldn’t! ) but I LOVE that fact that you have made this available for everyone else.
    Thank you Dr. T – I have some important listening to do. I may be some time!

  2. Eyesometric says:

    I’ve been saving this for a rainy day. It’s not raining today but I have all my windows to clean – I HATE cleaning windows! 😦 so this will make the job a little less arduous.
    I did not realise you could do “autoplay” from YT – this is very handy as my converter programme has gone on the blink. Ah – here comes a bit that needs my full attention so, thanks again and I’ll be back to discuss.

  3. Eyesometric says:

    Well – I finished the windows, phhew! and decided to look at this version in a little more depth. I’ve been following the score –,_Vincenzo)

    I first downloaded the full score and found it was handwritten and not a viable option to follow on a computer screen and eventually settled on this piano reduction. It has been a wonderful lesson in bel canto ornamentation, seeing what is written ( by the editor at least) and what some 😉 of the singers produce.

    So. The singers. I have to admit to taking an instant dislike to Fabio Sartori’s voice – exactly the sort of exaggerated Italian tenor style I try to avoid – just a personal thing as I’m sure there are many who really enjoy that. I’m not a fan of the soprano either – something about the edge to her voice and a laboured delivery. It was really interesting to hear the duets with VK where they actually sing the same notes one after the other – the difference is quite remarkable and I am guilty of turning down the volume for Giulitta! I did enjoy the baritones though.

    But coming away from the negative – I agree about the chorus, slick and effective and the tempi were fine but I have yet to compare to another version. The only other time I have listened all the way through was when we all met at Anik’s for the Vienna Erraught debut. I will enjoy comparing the other versions you suggest. And – the Romeo. What can I say? I knew VK was a consumate musician and performer but this is something else! Would you say that other versions ( of her performance, not necessarily the whole opera ) are even better?

    I also loved the fact that you could hear the characters and voices travelling across the stage – it gave a sense of space and wasn’t over-engineered, very live, and, as you say, the commentary was excellent, adding greatly to the experience.

    Having said all this ( sorry to take up so much box! ) I am only up to Act 2 sc2. Thank you again for making the play list.

    • thả diều says:

      “It has been a wonderful lesson in bel canto ornamentation, seeing what is written ( by the editor at least) and what some 😉 of the singers produce.”

      oh? you will have to show me more specifics, given that i don’t read music :-). It’s interesting that it took me that long to go back to this version to appreciate VK’s take. what originally put me off was the soprano. i don’t know how she performed normally during those years, but in this performance she drove me totally nut with her oscillatory (wavy) sound production. it was to a point i couldn’t enjoy the duet due to distraction. but on this 2nd round, i got more used to that and learned to focus on VK’s voice.

      Well, every performance is different in its own right you know, but since you did ask “Would you say that other versions ( of her performance, not necessarily the whole opera ) are even better?”, which also sent a shock to my system the fact that you haven’t heard the whole dresden performance ;-), i’d have to say _it_ is a version to die for! it must be because everything came together in dresden, oh how i wished i was there to witness. I admit the patched up work on youtube doesn’t do justice because it occasionally breaks the flow (smorgy, how could it be!! 😉 ). But if you get to hear it in 1 go like this version, you’d really feel the dynamic of the whole opera, and particularly of Romeo. I can confirm I’ve ran it through my system > 100 times, and if you’d like to hear it in 1 go, we can arrange.

      But back to this performance, I agree i also love it that you can hear the singers travelling across the stage! It’s funny the first time I heard it, I literally looked to my right speaker as though I’d find Kasarova over there after she just traversed from my left speaker!

      And lastly, you know what I would reallyyyy love? to hear the music of this opera entirely from the piano! at least from what Philip Gossett played, i love love it!

      anyhow, happy to hear you enjoyed it. next up is a treasure i just discovered last week by accident!! 😉

      • Eyesometric says:

        Irresistible mental image – VK walking between your speakers 😉

        Perhaps the most valuable treasure is discovering the unexpected?
        And …. do you EVER sleep ??

      • Smorg says:

        Mea culpa! One of these days I’ll get around to fix the (lack of) flow between the clips of the Dresden playlist, matie. A bit backed up at the moment, though. I’m supposed to be writing book reviews this weekend but the pad needed cleaning and then I had a run in with the iron. 😦 Luckily it is only 2nd degree so the worst is over and I’ll just have to put up with a weird looking scar.

        Hey, have you read Philip Gossett’s book, ‘Divas and Scholars’, yet? It is marvelous and very lay-friendly, too. You don’t even have to be able to read music to learn loads of interesting stuff from it… and it has a few good VK anecdotes. 😉

        Hey Eyes, you’ve gotta try the Dresden version ( ) indeed. It’s the performance that made me love Marcello Viotti. ;D

  4. Eyesometric says:

    Many thanks for the playlist, Smorgy. I have some more serious listening to do 🙂

    • thả diều says:

      yes, i’d start with the overture from the playlist Smogy sent. it’s the only overture I’ve heard in all the capuleti versions where the tune beginning here is audible from the strings AND piccolo. In all other versions, the brass totally drowns out all instruments to the point there’s no tune left and i thought i was listening to a different overture. (oh, did I tell you Eyes that i loooove the piccolo in the Desden’s version? it pierces through the entire orchestra and really establishes the mood of the inevitable tragedy. and it’s used very effectively to my ears throughout the entire opera here). then there’s the spontaneity from all characters, from romeo and particularly giulietta. and did i mention the crisp chorus? and the tempo? and orchestra? 🙂

      @Smorgy: oh, i didn’t know about his book, let me check my library 🙂 . i hope that scar is not too bad, i gave up ironing long time ago. back in vietnam, we had this thing where you put burning coal from the open-fire burner in and if you forget, there’d be burns on your clothes the shape of the coal pieces…

  5. Eyesometric says:

    A couple of gifts for a piccolo lover …


    Myself I am not enamoured much by piccolos. I guess I’ve heard too many played badly!

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