Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Life of Bellini
The Life of Vincenzo Bellini
The name of Vincenzo Bellini stands high among the Italian opera composers of the early nineteenth century. Other times, other music, of course; and we fell that Bellini essentially belongs to the past. But three of the ten operas he wrote are still in the repertoire, and more ought to be. For, as Mr. Streatfeild says, "It is matter for regret that Bellinis works should now be entirely banished from the Covent garden repertoire while so many inferior operas are still retained. In an age of fustian and balderdash, Bellini stood apart, a tender and pathetic figure, with no pretensions to science, but gifted with a stream of melody as copious, unaffected, and sincere as has ever fallen to the lot of a composer for the stage."
Bellini was born at Catania, in Sicily, in 1802. He became a pupil of the Naples Conservatoire, and the weakness of his technique is generally attributed to the fact that his teacher there was an octogenarian. When he began writing for the stage, Rossini was at the height of his fame. But Bellini had conquered the public before Rossini practically finished his life work with "Tell." His first opera was produced in 1825, but it was not till 1831 that he achieved a lasting success with "La Sonnambula." "Norma" followed in the same year, and, in 1835. "I Puritani." And then Bellinis work was done. He had been in London for several months in 1833, and was much made of by the aristocracy. But his brief career ended in 1835, when he was only thirty-three; while a brother, a fourth-rate church composer, lived to be eighty-two. His untimely end created deep regret, and found expression in many notices and memorial pamphlets. He was, as his friend Greville said, "a simple-minded, amiable fellow, with a capital understanding, and a strong perception of the ridiculous."