Bel Canto Opera

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Opera in the Romantic Period was a time when opera changed drastically, especially in the country of Italy. The recognition of singers as being important, almost irreplaceable, in the art of “bel canto” opera changed the idea of a vocalist in opera forever. A singer’s voice was prized and Italian composers, like Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini wrote operas and works to showcase the voice, it’s color, range and agility. These Italian composers were moving away from the normal style of composition of the time, and the composer Rossini, who set the stage for many other followers. Many of the operas written during this time are still performed today and are highly acclaimed. For the most part, before Italy became a main player, France and Germany were the main areas for music. These composer’s lives were extremely important in the development of the romantic period of opera and they really put Italy in the eye of the public for their amazing operas and musical styles.

Bel canto,” which translated literally means “beautiful singing,” was a very important factor taken into consideration in the romantic era. According to Charles Osborne, bel canto singing can be defined as “a method of singing taught by the Italian masters […] in which smooth emission of tone, beauty of timbre and elegance of phrasing are among the most important elements (Osborne, intro).” The main style of voice for this “bel canto” singing is the coloratura. Coloraturas have a very wide range and have a lot of vocal agility, moving from note to note extremely fast. In a lot of romantic music, cadenzas were written with this kind of singing in mind. Image 1 is the score from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and shows an example of the coloratura singi...

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...anged the way that opera was to be written in Italy, but they set the standard for the entire world and therefore their works are classic and timeless and will be performed for an extremely long time to come.

Works Cited

Gossett, Philip, William Ashbrook, Julian Budden, Friedrich Lippmann, Andrew Porter, Mosco Carner. Masters of Italian Opera. New York: Norton and Company, 1980.

Grout, Donald Jay, and Williams, Hermine Weigel. A Short History of Opera: 4th Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003

Simon, Henry W. 100 Great Operas and Their Stories. New York: Anchor Books, 1989

Osborne, Charles. The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1994

Weaver, William. The Golden Century of Italian Opera: From Rossini to Puccini. New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc, 1988

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