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Nicola Vaccai

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Nicola Vaccai.

Nicola Vaccai (15 March 1790 – 5 or 6 August 1848) was an Italian composer, particularly of operas, and a singing teacher.

Life and career as a composer[edit]

Born at Tolentino, he grew up in Pesaro, and studied music there until his parents sent him to Rome to study law. Having no intention of becoming a lawyer, he took voice lessons and eventually studied counterpoint with Giuseppe Jannaconi, an important Roman composer. When Vaccai turned twenty one, he went to Naples and became a disciple of Paisiello, whose Barber of Seville was considered a comic masterpiece until Rossini's Barber swept it from the stage 35 years later.[1]

Vaccai launched his career in Venice, initially earning his living by writing ballets and teaching voice. He had his first operatic success with I solitari di Scozia in Naples in 1815. In Parma he was commissioned to write Pietro il grande, where he was also one of the soloists in the first performance. This was followed by Zadig e Astartea (Naples, 1825) and then his best known opera Giulietta e Romeo (Milan, 1825).

Vaccai's sojourn in London began with a production of his most successful opera, Romeo and Juliet, at Kings Theatre in April, 1832. His charm and continental reputation ingratiated him to society and soon he was much sought after as a teacher.

Ending his wanderings with a return to Italy, in 1838 Vaccai became a director and professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory where his students included Giovanni Bottesini and Luigi Arditi.[2] After six years he retired on account of poor health to his boyhood home, Pesaro, where he wrote his sixteenth opera. He died there in 1848.

Work as a teacher of singing: his Metodo pratico de canto[edit]

Later eclipsed by his rival Bellini, Vaccai is now chiefly remembered as a voice teacher. One of his notable students was soprano Marianna Barbieri-Nini. Vaccai wrote many books, one of which is his 1832 Metodo pratico de canto (Practical Vocal Method), which has been transposed to accommodate different voice types such as alto or low ranges such as bass in order to instruct students in the method of singing in the Italian legato style. It is still in print and is used as a teaching tool.

In his introduction, Vaccai notes that only the voice of a master demonstrating his exercises accurately can instruct a student in the correct techniques of true legato singing. The book is also an important source of information about the performance of early 19th-century opera.

Voice teacher Elio Battaglia edited a new teacher’s edition of the "Metodo practico" or “Practical Method of Italian Singing” which was published by Ricordi in 1990 and which was accompanied by a CD of examples.

On September 15, 2020, Teatro Nuovo (New York) released “Bel Canto in Thirty Minutes,” a complete recording of the “Practical Method of Italian Singing,” led by Will Crutchfield and featuring 22 singers including Santiago Ballerini, Lawrence Brownlee, Teresa Castillo, Junhan Choi, Georgia Jarman, Alisa Jordheim, Hannah Ludwig, Christine Lyons, Megan Marino, Dorian McCall, Madison Marie McIntosh, Angela Meade, Tamara Mumford, Lisette Oropesa, Daniel Mobbs, Jennifer Rowley, Nicholas Simpson, Michael Spyres, Derrek Stark, Alina Tamborini, Hans Tashjian, and Meigui Zhang.[1]


Title City and theatre Date of Première
I solitari di Scozia Naples, Teatro Nuovo 18 February 1815
Malvina Venice, Teatro San Benedetto 8 June 1816
Il lupo di Ostenda, ossia
L'innocenza salvata dalla colpa
Venice, Teatro San Benedetto 17 June 1818
Pietro il grande, ossia
Un geloso alla tortura
Parma, Teatro Ducale,
now Teatro Regio
17 January 1824
La pastorella feudataria Turin, Teatro Carignano 18 September 1824
Zadig ed Astartea Naples, Teatro San Carlo 21 February 1825
Giulietta e Romeo Milan, Teatro della Canobbiana 31 October 1825
Bianca di Messina Turin, Teatro Regio 20 January 1826
Il precipizio, o Le fucine di Norvegia Milan, Teatro alla Scala 16 August 1826
Giovanna d'Arco Venice, Teatro La Fenice 17 February 1827
Saladino e Clotilde Milan, Teatro alla Scala 4 February 1828
Azmir e Netzareo Madrid, Principe 28 June 1828
Alexi Naples, Teatro San Carlo 6 July 1828
Saul Naples, Teatro San Carlo 11 March 1829, but
composed between
1825 and 1826
Giovanna Gray Milan, Teatro alla Scala 23 February 1836
Marco Visconti Turin, Teatro Regio 27 January 1838
La sposa di Messina Venice, Teatro La Fenice 2 March 1839
Virginia Rome, Teatro Apollo 14 January 1845


Teatro Nicola Vaccaj, the opera house in Tolentino, is named after the musician.



  1. ^ J.G. Paton, 'Introduction', in Nicola Vaccai, Practical Method of Italian Singing ed. J.G. Paton (G. Schirmer, 1975), pp. iii-iv.
  2. ^ The Paganini of the Double Bass: Bottesini in Britain (Chris West, 2021)


  • Budden, Julian (1998), "Vaccai, Nicola" in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Four, pp. 881–882. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. 1998 ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
  • Legger, Gianni (n.d.), Drammaturgia musicale italiana, Fondazzione Teatro Reggio (Torino).
  • Vaccai, Nicola (1996), Practical Method of Italian Singing: Mezzo Soprano (Alto) or Baritone, G. Schirmer, Inc. ISBN 9780793553181 Another edition of Vaccaj's vocal treatise exists in three separated fascicules in which curator M.-G. Genesi gives complete version of the verses used by the composer, and also adds the introductory Recitative section of each exercise, permitting to the singer to include this "enlarged version" of the single pieces within a vocal concert programme. Edition: Piacenza, 2003,in 3 volumes.
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages. ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External links[edit]