Vincenzo Bellini is one of the most famous composers of the bel canto era.
Born on Nov. 3, 1801, the composer would become well-known for his expansive melodies that would become the inspiration for many Italian composers thereafter.
His first opera was “Adelson e Salvini,” which had its premiere in February of 1825 at the Teatro del Conservatorio di San Sebastiano. He would go on to compose a total of 11 operas over the course of 10 years, with his later works managing a sturdy foothold in the standard repertoire. His last work was “I Puritani,” which premiered in January of 1835 in Paris.
Unfortunately, the composer lived a short life, dying in 1835.
Bellini never composed as many operas as Rossini or Donizetti, or even Verdi, for that matter. A large part of that comes down to his death so young at just 34. However, three of his operas have become major fixtures of the repertoire.
“Norma” is perhaps his most dramatically cohesive with a strong libretto and potent music to support it. “Casta Diva” remains perhaps his most famous aria ever written. Wagner praised this opera endlessly throughout his life and is one of the reasons for his deep admiration for Bellini.
But “I Puritani” and “La Sonnambula,” despite their questionable libretti soar with incredible melody and it is here that we see Bellini’s ability to fully develop melodies in new and exciting ways; this is the music that would have such a profound impact on Verdi.
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Watch and Listen
There is no “Norma” more legendary than Maria Callas. Here is one of her great recordings.
And here is a recording of “I Puritani” with Juan Diego Flórez and Nino Machaidze.