Bellini opera include some of the best opera music ever written in the bel canto style of classic Italian opera. A number of Italian opera singers consider Norma by Vincenzo Bellini to be the best of opera and include it as part of their classic opera songs repertoire.
A Bellini opera crossword clue pops up from time to time in opera music online games and usually involves naming an opera by Bellini from among a Bellini opera list.
On another Bellini theme, the recipe – Peach Bellini is actually quite simple. Interestingly, Bellini’s drink is not related to famous operas. Instead, the Bellini drink recipe has a very different past. Discover the peach Bellini cocktail recipe below.
Read to Discover Vincenzo Bellini Opera:
Why is Bellini Considered a Famous Italian Opera Composer?
Famous Bellini Opera - Norma
In many ways Bellini was destined to be a famous Italian opera composer. Both Bellini’s father and grandfather were Italian and musicians. His father was an organist. His grandfather gave him his first lessons on composing music.
Bellini was born on November 3, 1801 in Catania, a city on the island of Sicily. At the time of Bellini’s birth the island was the Kingdom of Sicily. Today, it is part of Italy.
Bellini was christened with the names – Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco.
Just like the famous musical prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bellini at:
- age 2 began learning music theory
- age 3 began learning to play the piano (his father was his first teacher)
- age 5 could play the piano quite well
- age 6 began learning how to compose (his grandfather was his first teacher).
Unlike Mozart, Bellini received a formal musical education. At age 18, in 1819, he was accepted into the Real Collegio di Musica – Conservatorio di San Sebastiano (Royal College of Music – Conservatory of St. Sebastian). In 1826, the Real Collegio became the Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella. Today, it is known as the Naples Conservatory of Music.
Bellini died on September 23, 1835 in Puteaux, France, which today is just on the outskirts of Paris. He passed away just one month before his 34th birthday.
Unlike many other famous Italian composers of his time, Bellini was able to make a living composing operas. Between 1825 and 1835, he composed 10 operas.
All of Bellini’s operas were staged during his lifetime – an uncommon feature for many opera composers.
Bellini and Bel Canto Opera
Famous Bel Canto Composers
Bellini is considered one of the founders of the Italian bel canto style of music and opera. The bel canto tradition flourished in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century.
Bel canto singing passages are lyrical and quite different from the highly dramatic passages favoured in opera works by Giuseppe Verdi. Bel canto is often associated with the colorature soprano voice, which is a very high-pitched female sound that frequently features high penetrating trills – for example, the soprano role of Norma in Bellini’s opera.
Literally, the Italian words bel canto mean “beautiful singing”. Italian opera composers Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti used the bel canto style in their works.
Performing a Vincenzo Bellini Opera
How does an opera conductor approach the performance of a bel canto opera? Read to discover the performance of a bel canto opera by Bellini from the perspective of an opera conductor:
When professional conversations turn to the topic of a Bellini opera, in most cases the focus is on the performance skills of the opera singers. This is not a mere coincidence. It takes great skill to convey the finest nuances and emotional states of the opera characters expressly through “beautiful singing”. For this is the strength and determining factor in the success of a Bellini opera…
The singer’s voice, performing a V. Bellini opera, conveys artistic genius if he or she “paints” with skill and taste. At such time, the singer is compared to a diamond that shines within an appropriate setting.
Appropriately, the sound of the orchestra and chorus in V. Bellini operas must become that stylish setting. But, they are not just the background accompaniment for the singer. The drama within a Bellini opera is built upon the strong expressiveness of a sophisticated, clear choir and orchestra.
A Bellini Opera Fragment Found
A Bellini Opera Fragment
In April, 2012, the opera world was struck with the sensational news that a new Bellini opera had been discovered. Fred Plotkin, a well respected opera expert reported that: “A fishing vessel, thought to have sunk in 1819, was discovered on February 27 in a cove near the village of Vambolieri, 10 miles (16 km) north of Catania.”
Plotkin went on to describe an archeological find that had been preserved in lava rock. The find consisted of “…a sealed leather pouch containing a musical score called Pesci d’Aprile… On the front page was written the name Vincenzo Bellini.”
As an expert, Plotkin commented on the find: “We know that, when Bellini was a teenager, he composed an opera called Pesci d’Aprile. According to letters he wrote… Bellini naively sent the score written in his own hand on what was then a typical Italian postal boat… In his letters he said that the boat carying his package to Naples disappeared soon after it left Catania.”
You can read the full report by Fred Plotkin here (A new window will open!). And, if you examine the original closely, you will notice that it was broadcast on April 1, 2012 and is nothing but an April Fool’s joke, a hoax, a tall-tale…
But, sometimes reality mirrors fiction and is no stranger!
Just over a year later, in September 2013, the opera world was once again struck with fascinating news about a discovery from a Bellini opera. This time, La Biblioteca Nacional de España (The National Library in Spain) announced that during a routine archival request, they had uncovered a Bellini manuscript fragment in their archives.
The hand-written manuscript contains 7 bars from the opera Il Pirata (The Pirate) by Bellini. Interestingly, there is also a handwritten annotation: “Mano-scritto di Vincenzo Bellini i suoi Fratelli Mario e Carmelo” (Manuscript of Vincenzo Bellini and his brothers Mario and Carmelo).
This time, this was not a hoax. For anyone interested in seeing it, the manuscript is on deposit at Spain’s National Library in Madrid.
List of Bellini Operas
List of Bellini Operas
The following is a list of the 10 operas composed by Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835). Bellini composed these operas over the course of 10 years, between 1825 and 1835:
1825 – Adelson e Salvini, set in 17th C. Ireland
1826 – Bianca e Gernando, set in the Middle Ages in Sicily
1827 – Il pirata, set in 13th C. Sicily
1829 – Zaira, set in the 15th C. in the Ottoman Empire during the Crusades
1829 – La straniera, set in 12th C. France
1830 – I Capuleti e I Montecchi, set in 13th C. Verona
1831 – Norma, set in 50 BC in Gaul during the Roman occupation
1831 – La sonnambula, set in a pastoral setting
1833 – Beatrice di Tenda, set in 15th C. Milan
1835 – I puritani, set in 17th C. England during the Civil War
Are the Bellini Cocktail and Opera Related?
Although opera lovers would certainly like to claim a link between Vincenzo Bellini, the opera composer, and the Bellini Peach Cocktail, unfortunately, this is not quite so!
According to the Cipriani Family, the Bellini cocktail was created in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani (1900 – 1980), a bartender and owner of the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. It was named to honour the Venetian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini (1430 – 1516) – not the bel canto opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835).
The recipe for the Peach Bellini Cocktail is:
Pour the peach juice into a champagne flute. Then, slowly add the sparkling wine.
Although the Bellini Cocktail is not related to Vincenzo Bellini, the opera composer, there is nothing stopping opera enthusiasts from enjoying it as they listen to bel canto and Bellini opera.
Enjoy your Bellini Cocktail!
Text by Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych