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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 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 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's gravestone at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

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.

The next five years were triumphant, with major successes with his greatest works, La sonnambula, Norma and I puritani, cut short by Bellini's premature death.

Bellini died in Puteaux, near Paris of acute inflammation of the intestine, and was buried in the cemetery of Père 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 Première (date) Première (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

See also

Other important bel canto opera composers

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

Vincenzo Bellini

Vincenzo Bellini (Catania, November 3 1801 - Puteaux, near Paris, September 23 1835) was an Italian composer and one of the most important opera composers of the early 19th century.

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.

Although his operas never left the repertoire, they regained prominence in the 1950s due largely to soprano Maria Callas, followed by Joan Sutherland in the 1960s.


  • The Complete Dictionary of Opera and Operetta, James Anderson, Wings Books, 1993.


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