Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (3 November 1801 ‚Äď 23 September 1835) was an Italian opera composer. His most famous works are La Sonnambula and Norma (both 1831). Known for his flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania", Bellini was the quintessential composer of Bel canto opera.
Born in Catania, 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 a 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 Nicol√≤ 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 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 an offer 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 the next years, 1827‚Äď33 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 N√§chte, 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 sources as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Bellini died in Puteaux, near Paris of acute inflammation of the intestine, and was buried in the cemetery of P√®re Lachaise, 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.
Bellini's complete works are to be published in Edizione critica delle opere di Vincenzo Bellini, Milan: Ricordi 2003-
|Title||Genre||Acts||Libretto||Premi√®re (date)||Premi√®re (place)|
|Adelson e Salvini||opera semiseria||3 acts||Andrea Leone Tottola||12 (?) February 1825||Naples, Teatro del Conservatorio di San Sebastiano|
|Bianca e Gernando||melodramma||2 acts||Domenico Gilardoni||30 May 1826||Naples, Teatro San Carlo|
|Il pirata||melodramma||2 acts||Felice Romani||27 October 1827||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Bianca e Fernando
(revision of Bianca e Gernando)
|melodramma||2 acts||Felice Romani||7 April 1828||Genoa, Teatro Carlo Felice|
|La straniera||melodramma||2 acts||Felice Romani||14 February 1828||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Zaira||tragedia lirica||2 acts||Felice Romani||16 May 1829||Parma, Teatro Ducale|
|I Capuleti ed i Montecchi||tragedia lirica||2 acts||Felice Romani||11 March 1830||Venice, Teatro La Fenice|
|La sonnambula||opera semiseria||2 acts||Felice Romani||6 March 1831||Milan, Teatro Carcano|
|Norma||tragedia lirica||2 acts||Felice Romani||26 December 1831||Milan, Teatro alla Scala|
|Beatrice di Tenda||tragedia lirica||2 acts||Felice Romani||16 March 1833||Venice, Teatro La Fenice|
|I puritani||melodramma serio||3 acts||Carlo Pepoli||24 January 1835||Paris, Th√©√Ętre-Italien|
Other important bel canto opera composers
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Bellini's genius was mostly musical rather than dramatic. He was admired for his melodies, notable for their elegiac beauty and long arching phrases. His first success was Il pirata in 1827, followed by I Capuleti e Montecchi in 1830. Then came his most famous operas La sonnambula (1831), Norma (1831) and his last I puritani (1835), which proved a sensational triumph.
His penultimate work Beatrice di Tenda (1833), though very fine, did not achieved the success it deserved.