Vincent B. LoCoco – Author

Bel Canto

 

Today we are going to get a snippet of the era of Romantic Bel Canto singing.

First, what is Bel Canto?

It means simply: “Beautiful Song.”

This type of vocal singing, introduced in Italy, ruled Europe during the 18th centry and early 19th century. It is most known for long, melodic lines, along with legato phrasing and skill in high, florid singing.

Here is a quick clip to give an example.
https://youtu.be/r1Azfchg_5M

The tenor was Rolando Villazon. Notice how his voice just floats along the melodic line. Gorgeous right? Renee Fleming described this singing the best when she compared it to a clothesline, and the clothes pins along the line are the notes. The melodic line just keeps going forward while the vocal line does the same all the while hitting the notes along the way.

Next, who were some of the famous composers of Bel Canto?

Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti.

I wanted to share this clip of Elina Garanca singing and discussing Bel Canto.
https://youtu.be/rFdXWuxuonU?list=PLC35682E804B4CD4B

At some point in the 19th century, the public taste for operatic drama evolved. Composers, like Verdi and Puccini started composing operas that demanded more intense and powerful singing. Soon, Bel Canto was replaced by Verismo – which tried to bring realism to the arts. We will look at Verismo another time.

Bel Canto should not be forgotten. It is a glorious part of the tradition of opera. And when a singer comes along who can sing in that style, audiences can relive what it must have been like to attend opera centuries ago.

I leave you with Maria Callas – the soprano who brought Bel Canto back to the forefront in the 40s and 50s and paved the way for Sutherland and Pavarotti who flourised in the Bel Canto Operas.

 

 

Chip LoCoco
Author of A Song for Bellafortuna: An Italian Historical Fiction Novel.