I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) is an Italian opera (Tragedia lirica) in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini. The libretto by Felice Romani was a reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliet for an opera by Nicola Vaccai called Giulietta e Romeo and based on the play of the same name by Luigi Scevola written in 1818, thus an Italian source rather than taken directly from William Shakespeare.
Behind the libretto stand many Italian, ultimately Renaissance sources created by Matteo Bandello, and probably through their French translations by François de Belleforest and Pierre Boaistuau, rather than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The theme was very popular in Italy: there were earlier libretti by Luzzi for Marescalchi (1785, Venice), Foppa for Zingarelli (1796, Milan), and Buonaiuti for Pietro Carlo Guglielmi (1810, London). The first Italian libretto explicitly based on Shakespeare’s play did not appear until 1865; it was by M. M. Marcello, for Filippo Marchetti’s Romeo e Giulietta given in Trieste.
Bellini was persuaded to write the opera for the 1830 Carnival season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, with only a month and a half available for composition. He succeeded by appropriating a large amount of music previously written for his unsuccessful opera Zaira.
The first performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi took place on 11 March 1830.