During my tenure at Victorian Opera, we have embarked on a project to perform all the major Bellini operas in concert. The cynic might well ask “why”? – and add prevailing criticisms about poor orchestration, formulaic accompaniments and lack of dramatic differentiation between characters. All well and good – and perhaps intellectually sustainable points of view – which overlook one important phenomenon: an individuality of musical personality, which has an emotional eloquence of uncommon power that engages the public because of its lasting vitality.
A homage to Bellini
Bellini had great regard for the quality of his chosen texts. His most successful collaborator was Felice Romani (1788-1865) who was the librettist for seven of Bellini’s greatest works, including Normaand La Sonnambula(and would have been for I Puritanihad he not missed the deadlines for Beatrice de Tenda).
Romani produced nearly 100 librettos for composers as diverse as Mercadante, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti and Verdi; he was a lawyer, interested in mythology, French literature and antiquities. With this rather formidable background as an academician, one would be disinclined to expect the prodigious lyrical gifts Romani displays so frequently. He possessed...