I Capuleti e i Montecchi is considered by many Bellini’s first masterpiece. It certainly recalls in many ways the great belcanto era, particularly in the way the roles are organized: the mezzo-soprano as male protagonist, the soprano as his lover, the tenor as the hero’s rival, bass and bariton respectively as the noble father and the tyrant. However, Capuleti is not strictly a belcanto opera because of its intimate and at times dramatic atmosphere. So much so that the many embellishments, counterbalanced by a well-defined melodic core, are not ornamentation anymore but start to take an expressive connotation.
Monteverdi reinvents vocal music as a new relationship between the composer and his audience, using to that end his melodies of unprecedented expressivity. He creates modern opera as the public’s right to a performance he can understand, appreciate, being moved or laugh at.
Locked in my room, I recite the characters’ parts passionately and study my voice: its inflections, the tempo and pauses, in short the emphasis a man uses when he’s at the mercy of his passions. I then identify the right tempo and melody in order to allow the singers to express those passions by the means of harmony. I put the ideas on paper, try them on the harpsichord. When I feel the same emotion I wanted to express I judge I have succeeded; if I don’t, I look again for inspiration until I feel I’ve achieved my goal”.
Gioachino Rossini embodied quite well the ideals of the Restoration, at least in the choice of traditional and already tested subjects. Yet, on the other side, his music was completely revolutionary for its novelty: rhythmic energy, robust orchestral texture, dynamic melodies are some of the elements of his new style.
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