When Vincenzo Bellini told the story of Romeo and Juliette, his libretto by Felice Romani was based not directly on Shakespeare’s version of events, but that of an earlier Italian librettist, Luigi Scevola. That led to few differences between their version and the more familiar one by Shakespeare. No balcony scene, for example.

As Bellini and Romani tell it, the emphasis is on the feuding families more than on the lovers, and especially the atmosphere of hatred they create.

Opera Circle executive director Dorota Sobieska says that difference is especially evident in one brief scene at the end, when blame for the lovers deaths is placed on Capellio, head of the Capulet family, father of Juliette, for setting the tone that fuelled their feud that led to their desperate plotting, and ultimately their death.

Sobieska plays Juliette in Opera Circle’s production, opening Friday at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislas in Slavic Village—a visually spectacular space she says will serve the production well.

“The set is built in,” Sobieska says. “It is natural” for many of the opera’s scenes—like waiting for a wedding, or a funeral. The funeral scene will be presented as a funeral in the church, with singers from Cleveland Central Catholic serving as the congregation in the funeral procession.

Italian Andrea Raffanini, a specialist in Bellini operas, came from Milan to conduct the production. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislas (3649 East 65th St., operacircle.org, 216 441 2822). Tickets: $10 to $55.

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