Bellini, Vincenzo


Celebrated Italian dramatic composer. Born in Sicily. His father, who was an organist, was his first teacher. Later he was sent to the Conservatory at Naples, by a Sicilian nobleman, who was impressed by his talent. Bellini's instruction at Naples was not at all thorough, the Conservatory, under the direction of Zingarelli, being very poorly managed. It is probable that he got his best training from his study alone of the great masters. Bellini began composing very early, his first work being instrumental and sacred productions. Among them was a symphony for full orchestra, two masses, a cantata and several songs. At the age of twentyfour his first opera, Adelson e Salvina, was produced at the theatre of the Conservatory. Babbaja, the manager of the San Carlo Theatre at Naples and La Scala at Milan, was present at this performance and immediately commissioned Bellini to write an opera for the former house. The result was Bianca e Fernando, which was so successful that Bellini received another commission, this time for Milan, and, in 1827, II Pirata was produced at La Scala and was a brilliant success. These operas of Bellini's, with their simple melodies, were a great contrast to the florid music at that time the fashion in Italy, and they became very popular. In 1833 Bellini went to England, where he remained for a short time, afterward going to Paris, where he settled and was gaining popularity, when his early death, in 1835, cut short his career. The other works of Bellini, besides the operas already mentioned, are La Straniera, which was very successful; Zarra, said to have been a failure; Beatrice di Tenda, also unsuccessful; Montechi e Capuleti, a great favorite in Italy; La Sonnambula, considered his masterpiece; Norma, considered by Bellini is best work and a great favorite with musicians; and I Puritani, his last opera. Bellini's operas are especially noted for their lovely melodies, whose chief characteristics are simplicity, grace and tunefulness. In harmony, orchestration and dramatic effect Bellini's operas are weak, but for the ordinary hearer this is more than balanced by their beauty of melody. Bellini was buried in Paris, but his remains were afterward removed to Catania, Sicily, his native place, on the forty-first anniversary of his death.