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 considered to be I Capuleti ed i Montecchi (1830), La sonnambula (1831), Norma (1831), Beatrice di Tenda (1833), and I puritani (1835).[by whom?]
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; his work has been summed up by the London critic Tim Ashley as:
- ...also hugely influential, as much admired by other composers as he was by the public. Verdi raved about his "long, long, long melodies such as no one before had written". Wagner, who rarely liked anyone but himself, was spellbound by Bellini's almost uncanny ability to match music with text and psychology. Liszt and Chopin professed themselves fans. Of the 19th-century giants, only Berlioz demurred. Those musicologists who consider Bellini to be merely a melancholic tunesmith are now in the minority.
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 a class taught by 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 in February 1825.
Career in music
Early success in Naples
Bellini's next opera Bianca e Gernando met with some success at the Teatro San Carlo in May 1826, leading to a commission from the San Carlo impresario Domenico Barbaja for an opera to be presented in the autumn of 1827 at La Scala in Milan (which, between 1821 and 1832, Barbaja also ran.)
The Northern Italian years
However, his first opera for La Scala, Il pirata, was an immediate success when it opened on 27 October 1827. It began Bellini's fruitful collaboration with the librettist and poet Felice Romani, and it cemented his friendship with his favourite tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini, who had sung in Bianca e Gernando. Sparking controversy in the press for its new style and its restless harmonic shifts into remote keys, La straniera in 1828 was a greater success than Il pirata had been, and it allowed Bellini to support himself solely by his opera commissions.
The opening of his Zaira at the newly-built Teatro Ducale (now the Teatro Regio) in Parma in 1829 was a failure. But, in the following year, in Venice success returned with the premiere at La Fenice of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, an opera which was based on the same Italian source as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
1835 in Paris
It has been noted that towards the autumn of 1835, Bellini had become "the darling of the French capital.....[His] I Puritani had caused a sensation at its first performance at the Théâtre-Italien the previous January." It was during this time that he met Heinrich Heine who, in his literary portrait of Bellini which became part of his unfinished novel Florentinische Nächte (Florentine Nights) of 1837, emphasized the less-appealing aspects of the composer's personality: " 'You are a genius, Bellini,' Heine remarked maliciously, ' but you will pay for your great gift with a premature death. All the great geniuses die young, like Raphael and like Mozart.' "
Heine's comments were prophetic because, just nine months after the premiere of I Puritani, 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. Florimo became a librarian, musicologist, historian of music, and composer, working largely in Naples. 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.
Complete works of Bellini
|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|
Six Early Songs
- "La farfalletta" – canzoncina
- "Quando incise su quel marmo" – scena ed aria
- "Sogno d'infanzia" – romanza
- "L'abbandono" – romanza
- "L'allegro marinaro – ballata
- "Torna, vezzosa fillide" – romanza
- "Il fervido Desiderio"
- "Dolente immagine di Fille mia"
- "Vaga luna, che inargenti"
- "Malinconia, Ninfa gentile"
- "Vanne, o rosa fortunata"
- "Bella Nice, che d'amore"
- "Almen se non poss'io"
- "Per pietà, bell'idol mio"
- "Ma rendi pur contento"
Oboe Concerto in E flat
- Vincenzo Bellini (Italian composer). britannica.com
- Tim Ashley, "Opera must make you weep and die", The Guardian (London), 1 November 2001.
- Galatopoulos 2002, pp. 57—58
- Libby 1998, in Sadie, p. 242.
- Casa Ricordi website with list of critical editions
- Galatopoulos, Stelios (2002), Bellini: Life, Times, Music: 1801-1835. London, Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. ISBN 9781860744051
- Casa Ricordi (pub.), "Vincenzo Bellini": Outline of his life (in English) and list of critical editions of his works published by Ricordi on ricordi.it. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
- Eisenbeiss, Philip (2013), Bel Canto Bully: The Life of the Legendary Opera Impresario Domenico Barbaja. London: Haus Publishing, 2013 ISBN 1908323256 ISBN 978-1-908323-25-5
- Kimbell, David (2001), "Vincenzo Bellini" in Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, pp. 46–55. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-140-29312-4
- Libby, Dennis (1998), "Florimo, Francesco", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Two, p. 242. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Lippmann, Friedrich; McGuire, Simon (1998), "Bellini, Vincenzo", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One, pp. 389–397. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
- Orrey, Leslie (1973), Bellini (The Master Musicians Series), London: J. M. Dent, Ltd. ISBN 0-460-02137-0
- Rosselli, John (1996), The Life of Bellini, New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-46781-0
- Thiellay, Jean; Thiellay, Jean-Philippe, Bellini, Paris: Actes Sud, 2013, ISBN 978-2-330-02377-5 (French)
- Weinstock, Herbert (1971), Bellini: His life and His Operas, New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394416562
- Willier, Stephen Ace, Vincenzo Bellini: A Guide to Research. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-8153-3805-8 and on books.google.com.
- 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
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