“I hope to stamp my name on this epoch.”
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)
And he certainly did! Not only in the 19th century, when Vincenzo Bellini became one of the greatest Italian composers, but also in the 20th century, when his music gained life again through the voices of the incredible sopranos Rosa Ponselle and Maria Callas.
Born on 3 November 1801 in Sicily into a prestigious musical family, Bellini was recognised as a prodigy already in his childhood. He was writing and playing music as early as the age of three. As a young man he was granted a scholarship to study at a conservatory in Naples, where he was noticed for his first opera Adelson e Salvini in 1825.
Bellini’s operas always follow a similar plot. Exploring the female psyche, they unfold around the main female character who suffers in the hands of tough and unstable men.
His soprano pieces are regarded being extremely difficult and demand great effort from the singers. Maria Callas was recognised as one of the greatest opera singers because of her Bellini performances. Here you can find beautiful footage of her at the Paris Opera in 1958, singing the aria Casta Diva from Norma, one of Callas’ most popular roles.
According to some music specialists, Norma is one of the most difficult roles for a soprano. It requires a singer that possesses both an amazing and technical voice and a great presence on stage. Bellini’s work gained a new dimension in the 1950s with Maria Callas always choosing to debut in a new place with an opera written by him.
Like Mozart and other historic geniuses, Bellini died very young at the age of 33, in 1835, from dysentery. He left only ten operas. This is not a great amount, but without doubt it is very unique, intense and extremely powerful.
Here at Europeana you can explore more of Vincenzo Bellini’s life and works.