Vincenzo Bellini - Encyclopedia

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VINCENZO BELLINI (1801-1835), operatic composer of the Italian school, was born at Catania in Sicily, on the 1st of November 1801. He was descended from a family of musicians, both his father and grandfather having been composers of some reputation. After having received his preparatory musical education at home, he entered the conservatoire of Naples, where he studied singing and composition under Tritto and Zingarelli. He soon began to write pieces for various instruments, as well as a cantata and several masses and other sacred compositions. His first opera, Adelson e Savina, was performed in 1825 at a small theatre in Naples; his second dramatic work, Bianca e Fernando, was produced next year at the San Carlo theatre of the same city, and made his name known in Italy.. His next work, Il Pirata (1827), was written for the Scala in Milan, to words by Felice Romano, with whom Bellini formed a union of friendship to be severed only by his death. The splendid rendering of the music by Tamburini, Rubini and other great Italian singers contributed greatly to the success of the work, which at once established the European reputation of its composer. In almost every year of the short remainder of his life he produced a new operatic work, which was received with rapture by the audiences of France, Italy, Germany and England.. The names and dates of four of Bellini's operas familiar to most lovers of Italian music are: I Montecchi e Capuleti (1830), in which the part of Romeo became a favourite with all the great contraltos; La Sonnambula (1831); Norma, Bellini's best and most popular creation (1831); and I Puritani (1835), written for the Italian opera in Paris, and to some extent under the influence of French music. In 1833 Bellini had left his country to accompany to England the singer Pasta, who had created the part of his Sonnambula. In 1834 he accepted an invitation to write an opera for the national grand opera in Paris. While he was carefully studying the French language and the cadence of French verse for the purpose, he was seized with a sudden illness and died at his villa in Puteaux near Paris on the 24th of September 1835. His operatic creations are throughout replete with a spirit of gentle melancholy, frequently monotonous and almost always undramatic, but at the same time irresistibly sweet. To this spirit, combined with a rich flow of cantilena, Bellini's operas owe their popularity. "I shall never forget," wrote Wagner, "the impression made upon me by an opera of Bellini at a period when I was completely exhausted with the everlastingly abstract complication used in our orchestras, when a simple and noble melody was revealed anew to me." See also G. Labat, Bellini (Bordeaux, 1865); A. Pougin, Bellini, sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1868).

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