View Poll Results: Favorite Belcanto Composer

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  • Rossini

    18 36.00%
  • Donizetti

    4 8.00%
  • Bellini

    27 54.00%
  • Other (specify)

    0 0%
  • I don't like Belcanto opera

    1 2.00%
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Thread: Favorite Belcanto Composer

  1. #1
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    Default Favorite Belcanto Composer

    For sure, in what we are usually calling Belcanto period (meaning the first decades of the 19th century, in Italy) there are several interesting composers like Mayr, Meyerbeer, Mercadante, Pacini, Coccia, Morlacchi, Vaccai,... even the first operas of Verdi can be considered part of Belcanto.

    But, clearly, the three Belcanto composers par excellence are Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) and Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835).

    Which is our favorite Belcanto composer?. Even if I consider Rossini a genius, and enjoy many Donizzeti's operas, my favorite is Bellini.

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    Certainly Bellini. While remaining part of autonomic Italian school, he managed to catch up with romantic movement more fully than Donizetti and might easily stand on par with great romantic composers. In regard of what is often described as vulgarity of XIXth century Italian opera, the last of the three to be accused of it. In a way, greater composer than Verdi.
    Last edited by Aramis; Jan-10-2014 at 17:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    Certainly Bellini. In a way, greater composer than Verdi.
    I wouldn't necessarily say that, though Norma is without doubt a masterpiece, and, IMO, one of the greatest operas ever written. One should remember, however, that Bellini died young. Who knows what he would have achieved if he had lived to the same age as Verdi?
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    One should remember, however, that Bellini died young. Who knows what he would have achieved if he had lived to the same age as Verdi?
    Indeed, this seems particularly meaningful when you look at Verdi's operas written up to the age in which Bellini died. With these operas only, Verdi would never achieve the status of greatest Italian opera composer and would be simply "one of the four", if not less - certainly his oevure wouldn't be equal to Bellini in quality. Another thing is that when you compare youthful compositions, like their early sinfonias, it becomes evident that Bellini was more gifted musician for whom music was natural language even before he truely mastered it. Verdi, not so much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    Indeed, this seems particularly meaningful when you look at Verdi's operas written up to the age in which Bellini died. With these operas only, Verdi would never achieve the status of greatest Italian opera composer and would be simply "one of the four", if not less - certainly his oevure wouldn't be equal to Bellini in quality. Another thing is that when you compare youthful compositions, like their early sinfonias, it becomes evident that Bellini was more gifted musician for whom music was natural language even before he truely mastered it. Verdi, not so much.
    Much of what you say is true, but I feel I must stand up for Verdi, who became undoubtedly the greatest Italian opera composer of them all. In my eyes (ears?) that makes him the greatest opera composer of all time (though not without a tussle with Mozart), as I am not and never have been a big Wagner fan (the Wagner lovers will shoot me down in flames for saying that, no doubt).

    Verdi was a late developer, it is true, and it took him a while to find his form, but from Rigoletto onwards he hardly puts a foot wrong. OK. Les Vepres Siciliennes dips after La Traviata, but, after it, he gets greater and greater. Though Don Carlo can be problematic, it has some of the greatest music ever written for the operatic stage, the conflict between church and state so brilliantly realised. His last three operas Aida, Otello and Falstaff are all great, incredible masterpieces.I have heard every single one of Verdi's operas. His path may not have been always sure and he sometimes stumbles, but there is ever a sense of him moving forward, striving towards those last great masterpieces.

    We can only imagine how Bellini would have developed. Fortunately, with Verdi we don't have to.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Vincenzo Bellini!

    I've always thought his music absolutely sublime. I'll never forget the first time I heard "Casta diva," "Qui la voce," and "Ah, non credea mirarti."

    I think of Bellini as sort of like the Harold Arlen (the Broadway and film musical composer) of opera. By that I mean that Bellini was more a "composer's composer" than a great dramatist. Of course, his melodies overflow with emotion. But as far as musical characterization and overall effective dramatic structure are concerned, I would give the operas of Donizetti the edge. What I've noticed about Bellini is that his characters pretty much all "sound alike"; there doesn't seem to have been a great attempt on his part to write different kinds of melodies for different kinds of characters. I feel that Donizetti, by contrast, did have this ability; think, for example, of the tense, anxious vocal line of Enrico's aria and cabaletta in scene one of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, in contrast with the schizophrenic-sounding one of Lucia's 'Regnava nel silenzio" in the subsequent scene. Bellini's arias, gorgeous as they are, seem all to be in the same elegaic mode. He was like Arlen, who always wrote songs that were superb in and of themselves but were not theatre songs in the way that those of, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein were; they lacked something as far as specificity to the dramatic situation was concerned. But because I've always responded so deeply to his music, I pick Bellini as my favorite.

    I love Rossini as well; in fact, he was my very first love as an opera enthusiast. No one did "comedy in music" like Rossini.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Jan-10-2014 at 20:49.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    Vincenzo Bellini!

    I've always thought his music absolutely sublime. I'll never forget the first time I heard "Casta diva," "Qui la voce," and "Ah, non credea mirarti."

    I think of Bellini as sort of like the Harold Arlen (the Broadway and film musical composer) of opera. By that I mean that Bellini was more a "composer's composer" than a great dramatist. Of course, his melodies overflow with emotion. But as far as musical characterization and overall effective dramatic structure are concerned, I would give the operas of Donizetti the edge. What I've noticed about Bellini is that his characters pretty much all "sound alike"; there doesn't seem to have been a great attempt on his part to write different kinds of melodies for different kinds of characters. I feel that Donizetti, by contrast, did have this ability; think, for example, of the tense, anxious vocal line of Enrico's aria and cabaletta in scene one of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, in contrast with the schizophrenic-sounding one of Lucia's 'Regnava nel silenzio" in the subsequent scene. Bellini's arias, gorgeous as they are, seem all to be in the same elegaic mode.
    Then, if you compare recitatives, Bellini comes off as the most dramatically true in this regard. Donizetti is still looking back to Rossini with generic model of recitative being couple of blah-blah-blah lines interrupted by Da-Dam! here and there before falling into an aria. Bellini recitatives are far more expressive than that.

    I also disagree with the arias being the same for all characters. Do you think you could exchange numbers between Polline and Elvino and everything would seem alright, with our tender villager expressing his feelings after being "betrayed" with heroic music of "Me protege, me difende"?
    Last edited by Aramis; Jan-10-2014 at 21:12.

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    I hadn't considered the recitatives, but I do agree with what you say above. For instance, that one in NORMA that connects "Casta diva" with "Ah, bello a me ritorna" is great and quite complex and has always been a favorite passage of mine. It sounds so typical of Bellini.

    When I said that about all of the characters having the same sort of music, I was thinking mainly of LA SONNAMBULA and I PURITANI. But you're right about Pollione; there's a lot of tension in both his aria and his cabaletta and, no, he could never be mistaken for Elvino!

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    This was the list of operas composed by Verdi up to the same age that Bellini died, as mentioned by Aramis:

    Oberto, Un giorno di regno, Nabucco, I Lombardi, Ernani, I due Foscari, Giovanna d'Arco, Alzira and Attila.

    Certainly some great work was already there, but nothing of the significance of Norma or Puritani, in my view. Then again, what Bellini could have written if he would have been able to live until old age, is opera-fiction. In any case, Rossini spent the last 36 years without writing a single note for the operatic stage, and he retired while still young. So, one never knows....

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    Bellini

    of course, one has to accept that the 21st century has a different view of credible story lines, but giving in to the melodrama of nineteenth century Rommanticism isn't too problematical for me.

    and to poke my head above the parapet, especially with Callas singing (flaws and all - she still sends a shiver down my spine in loads of Bellini).
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    I voted for Rossini. He's the recipient of a lot musical snobbery, but I find his music to be fantastic, and, a quality that is often overlooked, fun. Certainly Il barbiere di Siviglia and especially Le Comte Ory are comedic masterpieces. And though it is practically unsingable, Guillaume Tell is a dramatic masterpiece.

    Berlioz is in some ways a French bel canto composer, and is sometimes overlooked as a great opera composer. Benvenuto Cellini is great, and I don't think it's nearly as "problematic" as it always called in reviews.

    And for anybody who was going to say it, no, Lohengrin is not a bel canto opera, and it isn't Wagner's "Italian opera" either. I don't know who started calling it that, but if I ever find out their name they'll have to go away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HumphreyAppleby View Post
    Berlioz is in some ways a French bel canto composer
    In what way? Quality aside, I think his conceptions were very far from bel canto. He was follower of Gluck.

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    I'd have to dig out the book, but I'm certain Berlioz was scathingly dismissive of bel canto opera and I suspect he'd look even more defeated that he does in the famous photo if he was viewed as a neighbour of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    Quote Originally Posted by Headphone Hermit View Post
    I'd have to dig out the book, but I'm certain Berlioz was scathingly dismissive of bel canto opera and I suspect he'd look even more defeated that he does in the famous photo if he was viewed as a neighbour of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini
    From what I remember, Berlioz wrote negative review for Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment but it was more like Wagner dissin' La Favorita from frustration. Another misty recollection is that he had some positive impressions on I Capuleti e i Montecchi?
    Last edited by Aramis; Jan-10-2014 at 23:43.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    Vincenzo Bellini!

    I've always thought his music absolutely sublime. I'll never forget the first time I heard "Casta diva," "Qui la voce," and "Ah, non credea mirarti."

    I think of Bellini as sort of like the Harold Arlen (the Broadway and film musical composer) of opera. By that I mean that Bellini was more a "composer's composer" than a great dramatist. Of course, his melodies overflow with emotion. But as far as musical characterization and overall effective dramatic structure are concerned, I would give the operas of Donizetti the edge. What I've noticed about Bellini is that his characters pretty much all "sound alike"; there doesn't seem to have been a great attempt on his part to write different kinds of melodies for different kinds of characters. I feel that Donizetti, by contrast, did have this ability; think, for example, of the tense, anxious vocal line of Enrico's aria and cabaletta in scene one of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, in contrast with the schizophrenic-sounding one of Lucia's 'Regnava nel silenzio" in the subsequent scene. Bellini's arias, gorgeous as they are, seem all to be in the same elegaic mode. He was like Arlen, who always wrote songs that were superb in and of themselves but were not theatre songs in the way that those of, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein were; they lacked something as far as specificity to the dramatic situation was concerned. But because I've always responded so deeply to his music, I pick Bellini as my favorite.

    I love Rossini as well; in fact, he was my very first love as an opera enthusiast. No one did "comedy in music" like Rossini.
    I'm afraid I have to disagree. Who but Amina could sing Come per me sereno or Ah non credea? And how cleverly Bellni differentiates between her happiness in the former and utter despair in the latter. Even the two cabalettas have a different feel to them. Nor do I think Elvira's music would dramatically work for Amina, and certainly not for Norma. Pollione's martial music is utterly different from Elvino's or Arturo's. Even the arias for Romeo and Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi are very different, Giulietta's music much more elegiac, Romeo's more forthright.

    No I think Bellini was actually a very good musical dramatist. Take the tune he writes for In mia man alfin tu sei. Rightly admired by Verdi, this is superbly dramatic writing. One cannot imagine it being used in other circumstances in another opera. In fact Bellini's writing is much less interchangeable than Rossini's, who constantly borrowed from himself. Why even Rosina's Io son docile was originally sung by the Queen of England in Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra, yet two such different characters it seems hard to imagine.

    Bellini had such a fount of endless melody, we sometimes forget how apposite those melodies are to both the character and the situation they are singing about.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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