Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/224

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212
BELLINI.
BELLETTI.

In the meantime he had sung with great success at Florence and Leghorn, in operas of Rossini and Donizetti. In 1848 he made his first appearance at Her Majesty's Theatre in 'Ernani,' with Mlle. Cruvelli, and during that season sang at both the opera-houses. After singing with no less success at Paris, he was engaged, with Lind and Benedict, by Barnum, for a tour in the United States; during which he maintained his reputation, and contributed to the enthusiastic reception which the company obtained in America. Returned once more to London, Belletti remained there till the end of 62, singing not only at the Opera, but in classical concerts and oratorios, with undiminished success. Since that time he has retired, in the midst of the most brilliant career, without a sign of faded powers, to Sarzana, his native place, where he lives a life of seclusion, universally respected, and surrounded by his family and relations, with whom he shares the earnings of the years he spent in his profession.

[ J. M. ]

BELLINI, Vincenzo, born at Catania, the capital of Sicily, Nov. 3, 1802, [App. p.542 "Nov. 1, 1801"] was, like so many distinguished musicians, the son of an organist. From his father he received his first lessons in music; but a Sicilian nobleman, struck by the child's talent, persuaded old Bellini to allow him to send his son to Naples, where he offered to pay the child's expenses at the famous Conservatorio, directed at that time by Zingarelli. Here Donizetti, who was born nine [App. p.542 "four"] years before and died thirteen years after Bellini, had preceded his short-lived contemporary by only a few years. Another of Bellini's fellow-pupils at the Conservatorio of Naples was Mercadante, the future composer of 'Il Giuramento' and 'La Testa di Bronzo,' It is probable enough that Mercadante (who in after years became director of the celebrated musical institution in which he received his early education) may have written better exercises and passed better examinations than his less instructed young friend Bellini. The latter however began at an earlier age to compose. Bellini's first work for the stage was produced while he was still at the academy. His 'Adelson e Salvino' [App. p.542 "1824"] had the good fortune to be played in presence of the celebrated Barbajà, manager at that time of La Scala at Milan, of the San Carlo at Naples, and of numerous minor opera-houses. The great impresario, with the keen-sightedness which always distinguished him, gave the promising student a commission to write an opera for Naples; and in 1826, Bellini's 'Bianca e Fernando' was brought out at the San Carlo without being so successful as to attract European attention. Bianca e Fernando, however, pleased the Neapolitan public, while its general merit encouraged Barbajà to entrust the young musician with the composition of another work, which this time was to be brought out at La Scala. The tenor part in Bellini's first opera for Milan was to be written specially for Rubini, who retired with the juvenile maestro into the country, and remained with him until the new opera, or at least the tenor part in it, was finished. The florid music of Rossini was at that time alone in fashion; and, by way of novelty, Bellini composed for Rubini, with his direct approbation, if not at his express suggestion, the simple expressive melodies which the illustrious tenor sang with so much effect when 'Il Pirata' was at length produced [App. p.542 "1827"]. Owing in a great measure to Rubini's admirable delivery of the tenor airs, 'Il Pirata'—the earliest of those works by Bellini which are still remembered—obtained a success not merely of esteem or even of enthusiasm, but of furore. It was represented soon afterwards in Paris, and in due time was heard in all the capitals of Europe where Italian opera was at that time cultivated. Bellini's next work was 'La Straniera,' first performed at Milan in 1828 [App. p.542 "1829"] with an admirable cast, including in the chief parts Madame Tosi, Donzelli, and Tamburini. 'La Straniera' was less successful than its predecessor, and it scarcely can be said to have met with general favour in Europe. Like 'Il Pirata' it was produced in London, where however it made but little impression. 'Zaira' (Parma, 1829) may be said to have failed. This at least is the only work of Bellini since the production of 'Il Pirata' which was never performed out of Italy. 'Il Capuletti ed i Montecchi,' composed for Venice and represented for the first time at La Fenice in 1830, was brilliantly successful throughout Italy; though in London and Paris the new musical version of 'Romeo and Juliet' seems to have owed such favour as it received to Madame Pasta's performance in the character of Romeo. This part, it may be noted, was the one selected by Herr Wagner's niece, Mlle. Johanna Wagner, for her début in London when, immediately after the so-called 'Jenny Lind mania,' that artist, so much admired in Germany, appeared without success at Her Majesty's Theatre. In 1831 Bellini, now 29 years of age, composed for La Scala the work generally regarded as his masterpiece. Romani, the first of modern Italian librettists, had prepared for him, on the basis of a vaudeville and ballet by the late M. Scribe, the 'book' of 'La Sonnambula'; and the subject, so perfectly suited to Bellini's idyllic and elegiac genius, found at his hands the most appropriate and most felicitous musical treatment. 'La Sonnambula,' originally represented at La Scala [App. p.542 "1831"], could not but make the tour of Europe; and, warmly received wherever it was performed, it seems nowhere to have hit the public taste so much as in England. No Italian opera before or since 'La Sonnambula' has been so often played in London as that charming work, the popularity of which is due partly to the interest of its simple, natural, thoroughly intelligible story, chiefly to the beauty of the melodies in which it abounds. Thanks to Madame Malibran, who appeared in an English version of the work, 'La Sonnambula' soon became as popular in our own as in its native Italian language; and even to that large portion of the public which never enters an Italian opera-house the baritone's air 'When I view these scenes' (Vi