Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (Italian: [vinˈtʃɛntso salvaˈtoːre karˈmɛːlo franˈtʃesko belˈliːni]; 3 November 1801 – 23 September 1835) was an Italian opera composer. A native of Catania, Sicily, his greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi (1830), La sonnambula (1831), Norma (1831), Beatrice di Tenda (1833), and I puritani (1835). Known for his long-flowing melodic lines, for which he was named "the Swan of Catania", Bellini was the quintessential composer of bel canto opera. He died in Puteaux, France at the age of 33, nine months after the premiere of his last opera, I puritani.
Born in Catania, at the time part of the Kingdom of Sicily, Bellini was a child prodigy from a highly musical family and legend has it he could sing an aria of Valentino Fioravanti at eighteen months. He began studying music theory at two, the piano at three, and by the age of five could apparently play well. Bellini's first five pieces were composed when he was just six years old. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, it is certain that Bellini grew up in a musical household and that his career as a musician was never in doubt.
Having learned from his grandfather, Bellini left provincial Catania in June 1819 to study at the conservatory in Naples, with a stipend from the municipal government of Catania. By 1822 he was in the class of the director Nicolò Zingarelli, studying the masters of the Neapolitan school and the orchestral works of Haydn and Mozart. It was the custom at the Conservatory to introduce a promising student to the public with a dramatic work: the result was Bellini's first opera Adelson e Salvini an opera semiseria (half-serious) that was presented at the Conservatory's theatre. Bellini's next opera Bianca e Gernando met with some success at the Teatro San Carlo, leading to a commission from the impresario Barbaia for an opera at La Scala. Il pirata was a resounding immediate success and began Bellini's faithful and fruitful collaboration with the librettist and poet Felice Romani and cemented his friendship with his favored tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini, who had sung in Bianca e Gernando.
Bellini spent his last years 1827–33 in Milan, where all doors were open to him. Sparking controversy in the press for its new style and its restless harmonic shifts into remote keys, La straniera (1828) was even more successful than Il pirata, and allowed Bellini to support himself solely by his opera commissions. The composer showed the taste for social life and the dandyism that Heinrich Heine emphasized in his literary portrait of Bellini (Florentinische Nächte, 1837). Opening a new theatre in Parma, his Zaira (1829) was a failure at the Teatro Ducale, but Venice welcomed I Capuleti e i Montecchi, which was based on the same Italian source as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
The next five years were triumphant, with major successes including some of his greatest works, La sonnambula, Norma and I puritani, cut short by Bellini's premature death just nine months after the premiere of I puritani. Bellini left London for Paris, but never completed the journey back to Milan.
Bellini died in Puteaux, near Paris of acute inflammation of the intestine, and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris; his remains were removed to the cathedral of Catania in 1876. The Museo Belliniano housed in the Gravina Cruyllas Palace in Catania preserves memorabilia and scores.
There has been speculation about Bellini's sexuality. He had a sequence of affairs with married women, including Giuditta Turina. But he resisted any emotional commitment, and never married. When Turina proposed to leave her husband, Bellini bridled: "with so many commitments, such a relationship would be fatal to me". In contrast, the central relationship in Bellini's life seemed to be with Francesco Florimo, who came from a village close to Catania, and the two shared a close correspondence. Bellini wrote to him in 1825: "Your existence is necessary to mine". It is unclear whether the relationship was ever physical. After Bellini's death Florimo was treated as his spiritual heir, as well as his literary executor.
|Title||Genre||Acts||Libretto||Première (date)||Première (place)|
|Adelson e Salvini||opera semiseria||3 acts||TottolaAndrea Leone Tottola||12 (?) February 1825||Naples, Teatro del Conservatorio di San Sebastiano|
|Bianca e Gernando||melodrama||2 acts||GilardoniDomenico Gilardoni||30 May 1826||Naples, Teatro San Carlo|
|PirataIl pirata||melodramma||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||27 October 1827||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Bianca e Fernando
(revision of Bianca e Gernando)
|melodramma||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||7 April 1828||Genoa, Teatro Carlo Felice|
|StranieraLa straniera||melodramma||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||14 February 1829||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Zaira||tragedia lirica||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||16 May 1829||Parma, Teatro Ducale|
|Capuleti e i MontecchiI Capuleti e i Montecchi||tragedia lirica||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||11 March 1830||Venice, Teatro La Fenice|
|SonnambulaLa sonnambula||opera semiseria||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||6 March 1831||Milan, Teatro Carcano|
|Norma||tragedia lirica||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||26 December 1831||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Beatrice di Tenda||tragedia lirica||2 acts||RomaniFelice Romani||16 March 1833||Venice, Teatro La Fenice|
|PuritaniI puritani||melodramma serio||3 acts||PepoliCarlo Pepoli||24 January 1835||Paris, Théâtre-Italien|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vincenzo Bellini.|
Other important bel canto opera composers:
- Rosselli, John, The life of Bellini. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-521-46781-0
- Weinstock, Herbert, Bellini: His life and His Operas, New York: Knopf, 1971 ISBN 0394416562
- Thiellay, Jean; Thiellay, Jean-Philippe, Bellini, Paris: Actes Sud, 2013, ISBN 978-2-330-02377-5 (French)
- Casa Ricordi. Edizione Critica delle Opere di Vincenzo Bellini (Italian)
- Willier, Stephen Ace, Vincenzo Bellini: A Guide to Research. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-8153-3805-8
- Bellini cylinder recordings, from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
- Free scores by Vincenzo Bellini at the International Music Score Library Project
- Free scores by Vincenzo Bellini in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Teatro Massimo Bellini, Catania's web site
- Vincenzo Bellini at Find a Grave
- "Capriccio ad uso della Signorina Luisella D'Andreana", Pianist Francesco Nicolosi