Vincenzo Bellini  
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini, (born November 3, 1801, Catania, Sicily [Italy]—died September 23, 1835, Puteaux, near Paris, France), Italian operatic composer with a gift for creating vocal melody at once pure in style and sensuous in expression. His influence is reflected not only in later operatic compositions, including the early works of Richard Wagner, but also in the instrumental music of Chopin and Liszt.

Born into a family of musicians, Bellini produced his first works while still a student at the Naples Conservatory, where he had been sent by his father, an organist. Bellini gained the patronage of an important impresario, who commissioned Bianca e Fernando for the Naples opera. The success of this early work led to other commissions. Il pirata (1827), written for La Scala, the opera house at Milan, earned him an international reputation. Bellini was fortunate in having as librettist the best Italian theatre poet of the day, Felice Romani, with whom he collaborated in his next six operas. The most important of these were I Capuleti e i Montecchi (1830), based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; La sonnambula (1831; The Sleepwalker); and Norma (1831). La sonnambula, an opera semiseria (serious but with a happy ending), became very popular, even in England, where an English version appeared. Bellini’s masterpiece, Norma, a tragedy set in ancient Gaul, achieved lasting success despite an initial failure.

Bellini lived briefly in London in 1833 and then went to Paris. There, composer Gioachino Rossini’s influence secured for him a commission to write an opera for the Théâtre-Italien. The result was I puritani (1835), the last of Bellini’s nine operas; although handicapped by an inept libretto, it is in many ways his most ambitious and beautiful work.

Bellini’s fame was closely bound up with the bel canto style of the great singers of his day. He was not a reformer; his ideals were those of Haydn and Mozart, and he strove for clarity, elegance of form and melody, and a close union of words and music. Yet with perseverance he corrected some of the grosser abuses of opera then current. While he subordinated the orchestra accompaniment to the singers and placed upon their voices the responsibility for dramatic expression, his harmony was more enterprising than that of his contemporary Gaetano Donizetti, and his handling of the orchestra in introductions and interludes was far from perfunctory. It is, however, for the individual charm and elegance of his luminous vocal melody that Bellini is remembered.

Encyclopædia Britannica

Bellini's tomb in the Catania Cathedral in Sicily

Vincenzo Bellini is today honoured by a museum that stands in his birthplace of Catania in Sicily. He seemed destined to become a composer, and guided by his grandfather, also a composer, wrote his first piece at the age of six.

In 1819 he went to Naples to the San Sebastiano Conservatoire, but for a boy of such promise he was slow to develop. Various minor pieces date from these student days, but it was only when he turned to opera and wrote Adelson e Salvini that he discovered the form that was most congenial to him.

The work had a tremendous impact on the impresario Barbaia, who in 1827 commissioned Il pirata tor La Scala, Milan. Il pirata demonstrates well Bellini's style, which favours a pure, simple vocal line. This delighted his teacher Zingarelli, who had always warned his pupils against Rossini's music, claiming that the overly florid vocal lines were physically dangerous! Bellini also expected the librettos for his operas to have simple plots with fast-moving action, and the brilliant dramatist Felice Romani was an ideal partner. Their next collaboration was in 1830 on the opera I Capuleti ed i Montecchi. This version of Romeo and Juliet was made exaggeratedly melodramatic by Romani to suit the popular tastes of the day.

The partnership was again fruitful with La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker). This time the inclusion of just a hint of contemporaneous popular song made the opera an instant hit. Norma, premiered later the same year of 1831, was again very well received, largely for the clearly rebellious sentiments it contained, particularly in the final-act chorus "Guerra, Gucrra" (War, War). Today its best-known aria is "Casta Diva", in which the pure soprano solo line soars above the chorus.

Opera composition did not debar Bellini from affairs of the heart, and after he failed to win his first love due to opposition from her parents, he turned his attentions to Giuditta Turma. The relationship lasted five years, although for all that time the young woman was married to someone else.

After Norma, Bellini and Romani argued and Bellini wrote his final opera, I puritani (The Puritans) with Carlo Pepoli. Although the libretto was poor, the weaknesses were more than compensated for by the beauty of the melodies, the development of Bellini's style, and the magnificence of the premiere production: the opera was another triumph. After the exhausting task of composing and staging I puritani, Bellini was suddenly struck down with a fatal illness, and died in 1835 aged just 34. His place in the history of opera is assured, not only for the beauty of his own operas but also as a forerunner to the genius of Giuseppe Verdi.


Irina Vasileva

Aria of Norma
Cavatina of Norma
Stretta of Norma
Cavatina of NormaII


Jennifer Graf
"I Puritani"
Qui la voce


Jennifer Graf
"I Capuleti e i Montecchi"
Oh quante volte


Julie Brown
"La Sonnambula"
Ah! non credea mirarti



Norma: Poster advertising the 1831 premiere
Norma - 1831
Norma is a tragedia lirica or opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with libretto by Felice Romani after Norma, ossia L'infanticidio (Norma, or The Infanticide) by Alexandre Soumet. It was first produced at La Scala in Milan on 26 December 1831.

The opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre and a major soprano aria, "Casta diva", in act 1, is one of the most famous of the nineteenth century. A notable Norma of the post-war period was Maria Callas.

Giuditta Pasta for whom the role of Norma was created

Composition history

The management organisation, "Criveli and Company", was managing both La Scala as well as La Fenice in Venice, and as a result—in the April to May 1830 period—Bellini was able to negotiate a contract with them for an opera for December 1831 at La Scala—which became Norma—and another for the 1832 Carnival season in Venice for an opera which became Beatrice di Tenda.

With Bellini's La sonnambula successfully staged in March 1831 and Giuditta Pasta having demonstrated her extensive vocal and dramatic ranges in creating the role of Amina, the Swiss village maiden, she had been engaged by La Scala for her debut during the following season. Bellini and Romani then began to consider the subject of the coming autumn's opera. By the summer, they had decided to base it upon Alexandre Soumet's play which was being performed in Paris at around that time and which Pasta would have seen.

For the forthcoming autumn/winter season, La Scala had engaged Giulia Grisi, the sister of Giuditta, and the well-known tenor Domenico Donzelli, who had made a name for himself with Rossini roles, especially that of Otello. They would fill the roles of Adalgisa and Pollione. Donzelli provided Bellini with precise details of his vocal capabilities which were confirmed by a report which the Neapolitan composer Saverio Mercadante also provided. By the end of August it appears that Romani had completed a considerable amount of the libretto, enough at least to allow Bellini to begin work, which he certainly did in the first weeks of September as the verses were supplied. He reported in a letter to Pasta on 1 September:

I hope that you will find this subject to your liking. Romani believes it to be very effective, and precisely because of the all-inclusive character for you, which is that of Norma. He will manipulate the situations so that they will not resemble other subjects at all, and he will retouch, even change, the characters to produce more effect, if need be.
Norma was completed by about the end of November. While, for Romani, it became "the most beautiful rose in the garland" of all his work with Bellini, it was not achieved without some struggles. Bellini, now at the height of his powers, was very demanding of his librettist and required many re-writes before he was satisfied enough to set it to music.

Giulia Grisi sang Adalgisa

Performance history
Premiere performances

After rehearsals began on 5 December, Pasta baulked at singing the Casta diva in act 1, now one of the most famous arias of the nineteenth century. She felt that it was "ill adapted to her vocal abilities", but Bellini was able to persuade her to keep trying for a week, after which she adapted to it and confessed her earlier error. At the opening night, the opera was received with what Weinstock describes as "chill indifference". To Florimo on the night of the premiere, Bellini wrote "Fiasco! Fiasco! Solemn fiasco!" and proceed to tell him of the indifference of the audience and how it affected him.

In addition, in a letter to his uncle on 28 December, Bellini tried to explain the reasons for the reactions. As other commentators have also noted, some problems were innate to the structure and content of the opera, while others were external to it. Bellini discusses the tiredness of the singers (after rehearing the entire second on the day of the premiere) as well as noting how certain numbers failed to please—and failed to please the composer as well! But then he explains that most of the second act was very effective. It appears from the letter that the second evening's performance was more successful and Weinstock reports it was from this performance forward that it "was recognised as a successful and important opera" with 208 performances given at La Scala alone by the end of the 19th century.

Among the external reasons, Bellini cited the adverse reaction caused by "hostile factions in the audience" consisting of both the owner of a journal (and his claque) and also of "a very rich woman", who is identified by Weinstock as Contessa Giulia Samoyloff, the mistress of the composer Giovanni Pacini. On Bellini's part, there had long been a feeling of rivalry with Pacini ever since the failure of his own Zaira in Parma and his return to Milan in June 1829. With no firm contract for a new opera for Bellini, Pacini's success with his Il Talismano at La Scala—where it received 16 performances—fueled this rivalry, at least in Bellini's head. It was only when he staged a triumphant revival of his own with Il pirata with the original cast that he felt vindicated. Pirata received 24 consecutive performances between 16 July and 23 August 1829, thus outnumbering those for Pacini's opera. However, Bellini also noted that on the second performance evening of Norma, the theatre was full.

In all, Norma was given 34 performances in its first season at La Scala, and reports from elsewhere, especially those from Bergamo, when it was staged in late 1832, suggested that it was becoming more and more popular. Between 1831 and 1850 Weinstock provides details of the dozens of performances given in numerous cities outside of Italy, and then he gives details those beyond.

Bellini left Milan for Naples, and then Sicily, on 5 January 1832 and, for the first time since 1827, 1832 became a year in which he did not write an opera. Norma quickly "[conquered] the whole of Europe in the space of a few years".

Malibran in Norma, La Scala 1834


Later revivals
Richard Wagner conducted Norma at Riga in 1837. Following the common nineteenth-century practice of adding interpolated arias, he wrote an aria for the bass and men's chorus for this production. However, that aria has not entered the general repertoire. Wagner wrote at the time that Norma was "indisputably Bellini's most successful composition". He continues by praising Romani's libretto:

Here, where the poem rises to the tragic height of the ancient Greeks, this kind of form, which Bellini has certainly ennobled, serves only to increase the solemn and imposing character of the whole; all the phases of passion, which are rendered in so peculiarly clear a light by his art of song, are thereby made to rest upon a majestic soil and ground, above which they do not vaguely flutter about, but resolve themselves into a grand and manifest picture, which involuntarily calls to mind the creations of Gluck and Spontini.

The opera was given its British premiere in London on 20 June 1833 and its US premiere at the St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans on 1 April 1836. In the late 1840s and during the Risorgimento era, some of the music was used in demonstrations of nationalistic fervour, one such example being the 1848 celebration of the liberation of Sicily from the rule of the Bourbons held in the cathedral in Palermo. There, the Guerra, guerra (“War, war!”) chorus from act 2 was sung.

Giulia Grisi dressed as Norma. In 1831,
she also sang the role of Adalgisa


Modern times
During the 20th century, with the bel canto revival, the most prolific Norma was Maria Callas, who gave 89 stage performances (several of which exist on live recordings as well as two on studio versions made in 1954 and 1960). Callas' first appearances in the role began at the Teatro Comunale di Firenze in November/December 1948 followed by the second at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires in June 1949, both of which were conducted by Tullio Serafin. The following year, she appeared in the role at La Fenice in Venice in January 1950, this time under Antonino Votto. In London in 1952, Callas sang Norma at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in November (where one of the smaller roles was taken by Joan Sutherland); she made her American debut singing the role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in November 1954 under Nicola Rescigno; and then she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York under Fausto Cleva in October/November 1956.

Many other notable sopranos have performed the role, so that in modern times, Norma continues to be quite widely performed. Operabase shows 274 performances of 62 productions in 51 cities given or planned to be given since 1 January 2012.


Maria Callas as Norma in Paris

Singers in the title role

The title role—"one of the most taxing and wide-ranging parts in the entire repertory"—is one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire. It calls for great vocal control of range, flexibility, and dynamics as well as containing a wide range of emotions: conflict of personal and public life, romantic life, maternal love, friendship, jealousy, murderous intent, and resignation. The German soprano Lilli Lehmann once remarked that the singing of all three Brünnhilde roles of Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen in one evening would be less stressful than the singing of one Norma. She also commented "When you sing Wagner, you are so carried away by the dramatic emotion, the action, and the scene that you do not have to think how to sing the words. That comes of itself. But in Bellini, you must always have a care for beauty of tone and correct emission."

Throughout the 20th century, many singers have taken the role of Norma. In the early 1920s, its was Rosa Raisa, Claudia Muzio, and Rosa Ponselle who were each admired. Maria Callas emerged as a major force in the role in the post-World War II period and she made several recordings.

In the 1960s, two very different performers took the role: the Australian Dame Joan Sutherland and the Turk Leyla Gencer. Following Sutherland's 1964 debut as Norma, Luciano Pavarotti called her "the greatest female voice of all time".

The Dutch coloratura Cristina Deutekom tackled the role in 1970. Throughout the decade, four other bel canto specialists debuted their Normas: Radmila Bakočević, Montserrat Caballé, Beverly Sills, and Renata Scotto. Also singing Norma during this period were Grace Bumbry and Shirley Verrett, the American divas who began as mezzo-sopranos and eventually started singing soprano repertoire.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the role of Norma was performed by such different singers as Katia Ricciarelli, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Marisa Galvany, Dame Gwyneth Jones, and Jane Eaglen. Other Normas include Hasmik Papian, Fiorenza Cedolins, Galina Gorchakova, Maria Guleghina, Nelly Miricioiu, June Anderson, Edita Gruberová and Carmela Remigio (who performs more frequently the role of Adalgisa).

In 2008, Daniela Dessì performed as Norma at Teatro Comunale di Bologna. In 2010 (in Dortmund)[25] and 2013 (at the Salzburg Festival) the role was taken by famous mezzosoprano Cecilia Bartoli: this version was also recorded with coloratura soprano Sumi Jo as Adalgisa. In 2011, Sondra Radvanovsky also added the role to her repertory, one to which she returned in the autumn 2014 at the San Francisco Opera. On 13 April 2013, the Italian bel canto soprano, Mariella Devia, after a career of 40 years and one day after turning 65, successfully made her debut as Norma at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for act. 1, sc. 2 for the original production


Place: Gaul
Time: Circa 50 to 100 B.C.

Act 1

Scene 1: The grove of the Druids

Oroveso leads the Druids in a procession in the forest to pray for victory against the invading Romans: (Oroveso and druids: Ite sul colle, o Druidi / "Go up on the hill, oh Druids. Go and observe the skies and see when the new moon will show her silver crescent"). The Druids' pray that Norma will come and have the courage to break the peace with the Romans: (Druids and Oroveso: Dell'aura tua profetica / "With thy prophetic aura, imbue her o terrible God".) All leave to go to the temple.

Pollione and Flavio enter. Although Norma has secretly broken her vows in order to love him and has borne him two children, Pollione tells Flavio that he no longer loves her, having fallen in love with the priestess Adalgisa. But he expresses some remorse, describing his dream in which Adalgisa was beside him at the altar of Venus and a huge storm arose: (Pollione, aria: Meco all'altar di Venere / "With me at the altar in Rome was Adalgisa dressed in white, veiled all in white".) The storm presaged disaster for them both: "Thus does Norma punish her faithless lover", he declares. They hear the trumpets sounding to announce Norma's arrival. Flavio urges his friend to leave, but Pollione stands firm, proclaiming that he will confront them with a superior power and overthrow their altars: (Cabaletta: Me protegge, me difende / "I am protected and defended by a power greater than theirs / I am inspired by the thought of the one I love...")

As Norma leads the Druids and Priestesses, the crowd proclaims: Norma viene / "Norma is coming" and, as Oroveso awaits her, they describe her dress and manner. All kneel as she approaches. "The time is not ripe for our revenge", she declares, stating that Rome will perish one day by being worn down. Then, with the mistletoe in hand, she approaches the altar with a plea to the "Chaste Goddess": (cavatina: Casta diva / "Chaste goddess...turn upon us thy fair face, unclouded and unveiled"). Continuing, she pleads that the goddess shed upon earth that peace which she has created in heaven. She calls for all to complete the rites and then clear the uninitiated from the grove. To herself, she declares that she cannot hurt Pollione, but desires that things return to where they used to be: (Cabaletta: Ah! bello a me ritorna / "Return to me oh beautiful one as in the bloom of our true love"). The assembled crowd accepts her cautious approach, and all leave the grove.

Later that night: The Temple of Irminsul in the grove

Adalgisa prays at the temple, remembering with some sorrow how she became involved with Pollione. He enters, telling her that she prays to a cruel god and is not trying to invoke the god of love. While she appears to reject him, he declares (Aria: Va crudele /"Go oh cruel one, to your god make an offering of my blood") but he is convinced that he cannot leave her, he is distraught, but she is equally torn, until the moment when he declares that he must return to Rome the following day. He begs Adalgisa to go with him: (Duet: Pollione, then Adalgisa, then together: Vieni in Roma / "Come to Rome, my darling; Love and joy and life are there"). She resists him, but finally appears to agree that they will leave together the following day.

Scene 2: Norma's dwelling

Norma appears to be upset and orders her maid, Clotilde, to take the two children away from her, expressing very conflicted feelings about them. She tells Clotilde that Pollione has been recalled to Rome, but does not know if he will take her or how he feels about leaving his children. As Adalgisa approaches, the children are taken away.

Adalgisa tells Norma she has fallen in love with a Roman, whom she does not name. As she describes how she fell in love while waiting at the temple and seeing "his handsome face" appear, Norma recalls (as an aside) her own feelings for Pollione ("my passions too burned like this"), and more and more, their experiences of falling in love run parallel: (Norma and Adalgisa, duet: Sola, furtiva al tempio / "Often I would wait for him, At the temple, alone and in secret"). Adalgisa pleads for help and forgiveness, and Norma pledges that she will do that and will also free her from her vows as a priestess: (Norma: Ah! si, fa core, abbraciami, Perdonno e ti compiango / "Yes, take heart, embrace me. I forgive you, and sympathise with you". Adalgisa: Ripeti, o ciel, ripetimi / "Say that again, heavens, say again, Such wonderful words: Through you my long suffering is calmed".)

Norma asks Adalgisa to describe the man whom she loves. Responding, she tells her that he is a Roman and, at that moment, turns to indicate that it is Pollione who is just then entering the room. As Norma furiously turns to confront Pollione, Adalgisa is confused: Norma: Oh non tremare, O perfido, per lei. Essa non è colpevole, Il malfattor tu sei / "O faithless man, Do not tremble for her. She is not guilty, You are the wicked one".

Forcing the priestess to realise that she is the victim of a huge deception, Norma addresses Adalgisa. (Trio: each sings in succession, beginning with Norma: Oh! di qual sei tu vittima / "Oh, you are the victim, of such a bitter, deadly deception. It would have been better to die, than to know this man!" ; then Adalgisa: Oh! qual transpare orribile, Dal tuo parlar misterio / "Your mysterious words, reveal such horror"; then the two women together, followed by Pollione alone: Norma! de' tuoi rimproversi, segno non farmi adesso / "Norma, do not reproach me now", continuing with "Please give this wretched girl some respite"; after which all three repeat their words, singing at first singly, then together.)

There follows angry exchanges between the three, Norma declaring Pollione to be a traitor, he trying to persuade Adalgisa to leave with him, and she angrily telling him to go away. When he declares that it is his fate to leave Norma, she encourages the young priestess to go with him, but the latter declares that she would rather die. Norma then demands that her lover go, leaving behind his children—and his honour. (Finale: brief duet, Adalgisa and Pollione: he declares his love and she her desire to Norma not to be the cause of grief to her. Trio: Norma continues to rage at Pollione, Adalgisa repeats her desire to make him return to Norma, and Pollione curses the day when he met Norma.) Then the sound of the Druids calling Norma to the temple is heard. They report that the angry god, Irminsul, has spoken. Pollione storms out.

Norma-Act 2 finale-Lablache, Giulia Grisi (as Norma), Conti.
Her Majesty's Theatre, London 1843


Act 2

Scene 1: Norma's dwelling

Norma looks at both of her sons, who are asleep. She considers killing them. Advancing towards them with knife upraised, she hesitates. (Recitative: Dormono entrambi...non vedran la mano che il percuote / "They are both asleep...they shall not see the hand which strikes them".) But she cannot bring herself to do it: (Aria: Teneri, tenerie figli, Essi, pur dianzi delizia mia / "My dear, dear sons; a moment ago they were my delight, in their smiles, I thought I saw the forgiveness of heaven".) The children wake up and she calls for Clotilde, demanding that Adalgisa be brought to her.

The young priestess enters, concerned at how pale Norma looks. Norma makes her swear to do everything she asks and, upon her agreement, tells her that she is entrusting the two children to her care and states that they should be taken to the Roman camp to their father, a man whom she hopes will make a better husband for Adalgisa than he was for her. Adalgisa is aghast. Norma: "I beg you for his children's sake". (Duet, first Norma: Deh! con te, con te li presendi, Li sostieni, li defendi / "Please, take them with you, support them and protect them; I don't ask you for honour or power, let that be kept for your own children.") Adalgisa tells her that she'll never leave Gaul and only agreed to the request in order to do what was good for Norma. (Duet, Adalgisa: Vado al campo, ed all'ingrato Tutti io reco il toi lamentri.) In the duet, Adalgisa agrees to go to the Roman camp and tell Pollione of Norma's grief but her hope is to persuade him to return to Norma. She then renounces Pollione: (Duet: Mira, o Norma / "O Norma look at your dear children of yours on your knees. Be moved by pity for them, even if you have no pity for yourself.") They sing together, each expressing her own thoughts and feelings until Norma realises that Adalgisa will give up Pollione and remain with her: (Cabaletta: Duet, Norma and Adalgisa: Si fino all'ore estreme, compagna tua m'avrai / "Yes, you will have me as your friend until your last hour; the world is large enough to be a shelter to both of us together".)

Scene 2: The grove

The Druid warriors gather and prepare themselves to attack the Romans. Oroveso enters with news from the gods: the time has not arrived to strike. Somewhat frustrated, the soldiers accept the decision.

Scene 3: The temple of Irminsul

Norma enters. (Aria: Ei tornerà. Si, mia fidanza è posta in Adalgisa / "He will come back. Yes, I place my trust in Adalgisa: he will come back repentant, imploring, full of love.") Then Clotilde arrives with news that Adalgisa has failed to persuade Pollione to return. Although Norma questions whether she should have trusted her, she then learns from her servant that Adalgisa is returning and wishes to take her vows at the altar and that the Roman has sworn to abduct her from the temple. In anger, Norma strikes a gong-like shield as a summons to war. Trumpets sound and Oroveso and the Druids all rush in, demanding to know what is happening. They hear Norma's answer and the soldiers take up the refrain: Guerra, guerra! / "War, war!", while Norma proclaims "Blood, blood! Revenge!"

In order for Norma to complete the rites to authorise going to war, Oroveso demands to know who will be the sacrificial victim. At that moment, Clotilde rushes in to announce that a Roman has desecrated the temple, but that he has been apprehended. It is Pollione who is led in, and Norma is urged to take the sacrificial knife to stab him, but—approaching him—she is unable to perform the deed. The assembled crowd demands to know why, but she dismisses them, stating that she needs to question her victim.

The crowd departs: (Duet, Norma and Pollione: In mia man alfin tu sei / "At last you are in my hands; no one can cut your bonds. I can"). Norma demands that he forever shun Adalgisa; only then will she release him and never see him again. He refuses, and she vents her anger by telling him that she will then kill her children. "Strike me instead", he demands, "so that only I alone will die", but she quickly rounds on him with the announcement that not only will all the Romans die, but so will Adalgisa, who has broken her vows as a priestess. This prompts him to plead for her life. (Cabaletta: Norma and Pollione: Già mi pasco ne' tuoi sguardi / "Already I take pleasure in the look you give me, your grief and in her death; at last I can make you as miserable as I".) When Pollione demands the knife, she calls the priests to assemble. Norma announces that it would be better to sacrifice a priestess who has broken her vows, and orders the pyre to be lit. Oroveso demands to know who is to be sacrificed while Pollione demands that she keep silent, but Norma then reveals that it is she who is to be the victim because she is the guilty one, a high Priestess who has broken her vows, has become involved with the enemy, and has borne his children. (Aria, Norma to Pollione: Qual cor tradisti / "May this awful moment now show you the heart you betrayed and lost"; Duet: Norma and Pollione; Ensemble, Norma, Oroveso, Pollione, Druids, Priests: each expresses his/her sorrow, anger, pleas to Norma, with Oroveso learning for the first time that Norma is a mother.)

In the concerted finale, Norma pleads with Oroveso to spare her children (Deh! non volerli vittime / "Please don't make them suffer"). As she prepares to leap into the flames, the re-enamoured Pollione joins her, declaring "your pyre is mine as well. There, a holier and everlasting love will begin".


It was Giuseppe Verdi who—late in his life—made some perceptive comments in a letter of May 1898 to Camille Belaigue, who had recently published a book on Bellini. In the letter, Verdi states:

Bellini is poor, it is true, in harmony and instrumentation; but rich in feeling and in an individual melancholy of his own! Even in the least well-known of his operas, in La straniera, in Il pirata, there are long, long, long melodies such as no-one before him had produced. And what truth and power of declamation, as for example in the duet between Pollione and Norma! [See act 2, scene 3 above. Norma: In mia man alfin tu sei / "At last you are in my hands"] And what elation of thought in the first phrase of the introduction [to the duet].....no-one ever has created another more beautiful and heavenly.
Therefore, commenting on the overall quality of the music in Norma, David Kimble states that:

...Bellini's most astonishing achievement in Norma is, amid all the more obvious excitements of musical Romanticism, to have asserted his belief that the true magic of opera depended on a kind of incantation in which dramatic poetry and song are perfectly fused.
Additionally, Kimbell provides examples of how the composer's art is revealed in this opera, but also noting that the ability to achieve a "fusion of music and dramatic meaning is to be found elsewhere in Bellini's work"

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vincenzo Bellini, Norma (2011)
Director: Mario Pontiggia
Conductor Fabrizio Maria Carminati

Cast: Dimitra Theodossiu, Fabio Sartori, Ruxandra Donose, Carlo Colombara

Maria Callas "Casta Diva" | Vicenzo Bellini, Norma, 1957
Maria Callas (1923-1977), Gabriele Santini, conductor (1886-1964)
Rai Orchestra Rome, 1957.
Anna Netrebko - Casta Diva (Norma by Vincenzo Bellini)
Anna Netrebko in Casta Diva, from Norma by Vincenzo Bellini.
Baden-Baden opera gala 2007.
Anna Netrebko interprète Casta Diva (Norma de Vincenzo Bellini).
Gala 2007 à Baden-Baden (Allemagne)
Vincenzo Bellini, Aria of Adalgisa, Mezzosopran Agnieszka Lucya
Vincenzo Bellini, Aria of Adalgisa from the opera Norma "Sgombra e la sacra selva"
mezzosopran Agnieszka Lucya, piano Kanako Abe, conductor of the Orchestre Pasdeloup
Madeleine Church Paris, 19.6.2011 concert organised by the Elysees Club de Paris for the victims of the earthquake in Japan
Vincenzo Bellini - Norma : Sinfonia dell'Opera
Orchestra a Fiati
La sonnambula - 1831
La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) is an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime written by Eugène Scribe and choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer called La somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur. The ballet had premiered in Paris in September 1827 at the height of a fashion for stage works incorporating somnambulism.

The role of Amina was originally written for the soprano sfogato Giuditta Pasta and the tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini, but during Bellini's lifetime another soprano sfogato, Maria Malibran, was a notable exponent of the role. The first performance took place at the Teatro Carcano (it) in Milan on 6 March 1831.

The majority of twentieth-century recordings have been made with a soprano cast as Amina, usually with added top-notes and other changes according to tradition, although it was released in soprano sfogato voice (not be confused with the modern mezzo, nonexistent at the time) who sang soprano and contralto roles unmodified.

The phrase Ah! non credea mirarti / Sì presto estinto, o fiore ("I did not believe you would fade so soon, oh flower") from Amina's final aria is inscribed on Bellini's tomb in the Catania Cathedral in Sicily.

Giuditta Pasta as Amina, May 1831 premiere

Composition history

Returning to Milan after the I Capuleti e i Montecchi performances in March 1830, little occurred until the latter part of April when Bellini was able to negotiate a contracts with both the Milan house for the autumn of 1831 and another for the 1832 Carnival season at La Fenice in Venice; these operas were to become Norma for La Scala and Beatrice di Tenda for Venice. Writing to his uncle in Sicily, the composer reported that "I shall earn almost twice as much as if I had composed [only for the Venetian impresario]".

However, there was also a contract for a second Milan house for the following winter season for as-yet an unnamed opera, but it had already been agreed that Giuditta Pasta, who had achieved success in Milan in 1829 and 1830 appearing in several major operas, would be the principal artist.

Maria Malibran as Amina – London 1833

Then Bellini experienced the re-occurrence of an illness which had emerged in Venice due to pressure of work and the bad weather, and which consistently recurred after each opera. The gastro-enteric condition—which he described as "a tremendous inflammatory gastric bilious fever"— resulted in his being cared for by friends. It was not until the summer, when he went to stay near Lake Como, that the pressure to decide upon a subject for the following winter's opera became more urgent. That Pasta owned a house near Como and would be staying there over the summer was the reason that Felice Romani traveled to meet both her and Bellini.

Jenny Lind in La sonnambula

By 15 July they had decided on a subject for early 1831, but it was uncertain as to whether Pasta was interested in singing a trousers role, that of the protagonist, Ernani, in an adaptation of Victor Hugo's Hernani, later set to music by Giuseppe Verdi in 1844. With both men having various other commitments, by the end of November 1830 nothing had been achieved in the way of writing either the libretto or the score of Ernani but, by January, the situation and the subject had changed. Bellini wrote that "[Romani] is now writing La sonnambula, ossia I Due Fidanzati svezzeri....It must go on stage on 20 February at the latest."

That music which he was beginning to use for Ernani was transferred to Sonnambula is not in doubt, and, as Weinstein comments, "he was as ready as most other composers of his era to reuse in a new situation musical passages created for a different, earlier one".

During Bellini's lifetime another sfogato, Maria Malibran, was to become a notable exponent of the role of Amina.

Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani as Amina by Karl Bryullov, 1834

Performance history
19th century

With its pastoral setting and story, La sonnambula was an immediate success and is still regularly performed. The title role of Amina (the sleepwalker) with its high tessitura is renowned for its difficulty, requiring a complete command of trills and florid technique, but it fitted Pasta's vocal capabilities, her soprano also having been described as a soprano sfogato, one which designates a contralto who is capable—by sheer industry or natural talent—of extending her upper range and being able to encompass the coloratura soprano tessitura.

The opera's premiere performance took place on 6 March 1831, a little later than the original date. Its success was partly due to the differences between Romani's earlier libretti and this one, as well as "the accumulation of operatic experience which both [Bellini] and Romani had brought to its creation." Press reactions were universally positive, as was that of the Russian composer, Mikhail Glinka, who attended and wrote overwhelmingly enthusiastically:

Pasta and Rubini sang with the most evident enthusiasm to support their favourite conductor [sic]; the second act the singers themselves wept and carried the audience along with them.
After its premiere, the opera was performed in London on 28 July 1831 at the King’s Theatre and in New York on 13 November 1835 at the Park Theatre. Herbert Weinstock provides a comprehensive year-by-year listing of performances following the premiere and then, with some gaps, all the way up to 1900.

Later, it was a vehicle for showcasing Jenny Lind, Emma Albani and—in the early 20th century—for Lina Pagliughi and Toti Dal Monte.

Maria Callas as Amina


20th century and beyond

Weinstein's account of performances given charts those in the 20th century beginning from 1905. Stagings were presented as frequently as every two years in one European or North American venue or another, and they continued through the 1950s bel canto revivals up to the publication of his book in 1971. The opera was rescued from the ornamental excesses and misrepresentations more similar to the baroque style than the bel canto of Bellini when it was sung by Maria Callas[citation needed] in the now-famous 1955 production by Luchino Visconti at La Scala.

Contributing to the revivals were Joan Sutherland's taking the role of Amina at Covent Garden in 1961 and at the Metropolitan Opera in 1963, where the role become one of her most significant successes.

While not part of the standard repertory, La sonnambula is performed reasonably frequently in the 21st century. It has been given in three productions with Natalie Dessay, the first at The Santa Fe Opera in 2004, secondly in Paris during the 2006/07 season, and thirdly at the Metropolitan Opera in 2009, a production which was revived in Spring 2014 with Diana Damrau singing the role of Amina. A production was mounted by The Royal Opera in London in 2011. The first mezzo-soprano to record the role was Frederica von Stade in 1980, followed by Cecilia Bartoli.

As can be seen in the list in the "Recordings" section, live performances in the 1950s (there being two by Callas in those years) and from the 1990s have been recorded on CD and DVD. Additionally in the 21st century, Operabase, the database of upcoming (and some past) performances, shows 127 performances of 21 productions in 16 cities presented since 1 August 2012 as well as those planned to be staged up to 2015.

Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for act 2 scene 1

Act 1

Scene 1: A village, a mill in the background

As the betrothal procession of Amina and Elvino approaches, the villagers all proclaiming joy for Amina, Lisa, the proprietress of the inn, comes outside expressing her misery: Tutto è gioia, tutto è festa...Sol per me non non v'ha contento / "All is joy and merriment... I alone am miserable". She is consumed with jealousy for she had once been betrothed to Elvino and had been abandoned by him in favour of Amina. The lovelorn Alessio arrives, but she rejects his advances. All assembled proclaim the beauty of Amina: In Elvezia non v'ha rosa / fresca e cara al par d'Amina / "In Switzerland there is no flower sweeter, dearer than Amina". Then Amina comes out of the mill with her foster-mother, Teresa. She is the owner of the mill and had adopted Amina many years before. Amina thanks her, also expressing her thanks to her assembled friends for their kind wishes. (Aria: Come per me sereno / oggi rinacque il di! / "How brightly this day dawned for me".) Additionally, she thanks Alessio, who tells her that he has composed the wedding song and organised the celebrations; she wishes him well in his courtship of Lisa, but Lisa cynically rejects the idea of love. Elvino arrives, exclaiming Perdona, o mio diletta / "Forgive me my beloved", and explaining that he had to stop on his way at his mother's grave to ask her blessing on Amina. As they exchange vows, the notary asks what she brings to the partnership: "Only my heart" she answers at which Elvino's exclaims: "Ah the heart is everything!". (Elvino's aria, then Amina, then all express their love and their joy: Prendi: l'anel ti dono / che un di receva all ara / "Here, receive this ring that the beloved spirit who smiled upon our love wore at the altar".)

The sound of horses' hooves and a cracking whip is heard. A stranger arrives, asking the way to the castle. Lisa points out that it is getting late and he will not reach it before dark and she offers him lodging at her inn. When he says that he knows it, all are surprised. (Rodolfo's aria: Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni, / in cui lieti, in cui sereni / "O lovely scenes, again I see you, / where in serenity I spent the calm and happy days of my earliest youth".) The newcomer, who surprises the villagers by his familiarity with the locality, asks about the celebrations and admires Amina, who reminds him of a girl he had loved long ago. (Tu non sai con quei begli occhi / come dolce il cor mi tocchi / "You can't know how those dear eyes gently touch my heart, what adorable beauty".) He admits to having once stayed in the castle, whose lord has been dead for four years. When Teresa explains that his son had vanished some years previously, the stranger assures them that he is alive and will return. As darkness approaches the villagers warn him that it is time to be indoors to avoid the village phantom: A fosco cileo, a notte bruna,/ al fioco raggio d'incerta luna / "When the sky is dark at night, and the moon's rays are weak, at the gloomy thunder's sound [....] a shade appears." Not being superstitious, he assures them that they will soon be free of the apparition. Elvino is jealous of the stranger's admiration of Amina; he is jealous even of the breezes that caress her, but he promises her he will reform. (Duet finale, Elvino and Amina: Son geloso dei zefiro errante / chi ti scherza col crin e col velo / "I envy the wandering breeze that plays with your hair, your veil..")

Scene 2: A room in the inn

Lisa enters Rodolfo's room to see if all is well. She reveals that his identity is known to all as Rodolfo, the long-lost son of the count. She advises him that the village is preparing a formal welcome; meanwhile she wishes be the first to pay her respects. She is flattered when he begins a flirtation with her, but runs out at the sound of people approaching, dropping her handkerchief which the Count picks up. He sees the approaching phantom who he recognises as Amina. She enters the room, walking in her sleep, all the while calling for Elvino and asking where he is. Realising that her nocturnal wanderings have given rise to the story of the village phantom, Rodolfo is about to take advantage of her helpless state. But then he is struck by her obvious innocence and refrains: (Scene: first Rodolfo: O ceil! che tento / "God! What am I doing?"; then, separately, Amina: Oh! come lieto è il popolo / "How happy all the people are, accompanying us to the church"; then together.) As Amina continues her sleepwalk, Rodolfo hears the sound of people approaching and, with no other way out, he climbs out of the window.

Amina continues to sleep on the sofa as the villagers arrive at the inn. Lisa enters and points to Amina, who wakes up at the noise. Elvino, believing her faithless, rejects her in fury. Only Teresa believes in her innocence: Ensemble finale, first Amina D'un pensiero e d'un accento / "In my thought or in my words never , never have I sinned"; then Elvino: Voglia il cielo che il duoi ch'io sento / "Heaven keep you from feeling ever the pain that I feel now!"; then the people and Teresa, the former proclaiming her treachery, Teresa pleading for her to allowed to explain. Elvino then exclaims that there will be no wedding, and each expresses his or her emotional reaction to this discovery.

Alessandro Sanquirico's set design for the act. 2 scene 2 sleepwalking scene for the premiere production


Act 2

Scene 1: A wood

On their way to ask the count to attest to Amina's innocence, the villagers rest in the woods and consider how they will express their support to him: (Chorus: Qui la selva è più folta ed ombrosa / "Here the wood is thick and dark"). Amina and Teresa arrive and are on a similar mission, but Amina is despondent, although Teresa encourages her daughter to continue. They then see Elvino coming in the wood looking downcast and sad. He continues to reject Amina, even when the townspeople come in with the news that the count says that she is innocent. Elvino is not convinced and takes back the ring, though he is unable to tear her image from his heart: (Aria, then chorus: Ah! Perché non posso odiarti, infedel, com'io vorrei! / "Why cannot I despise you, faithless, as I should?")

The sleepwalker in act 2, sc. 2


Scene 2: The village

Lisa, Alessio, Elvino and the villagers are in the square. Elvino declares that he will renew his vows and proceed to marry Lisa. She is delighted. As they are about to go to the church, Rodolfo enters and tries to explain that Amina is innocent because she did not come to his room awake – she is a somnambulist, a sleepwalker: (Duet, first Elvino Signor Conte, agli occhi miei / negar fede non poss'io / "I cannot deny, my lord, what my eyes have seen"; then Rodolfo V'han certuni che dormando / "Certain people when they sleep go about as if awake".) Elvino refuses to believe him and calls upon Lisa to leave, but at that moment Teresa begs the villagers to be quiet, because Amina has at last fallen into an exhausted sleep.

Learning of the impending marriage, Teresa confronts Lisa, who says that she has never been found alone in a man's room. Teresa produces the handkerchief Lisa had dropped. The Count is unwilling to say what he thinks of this, but continues to insist on Amina's virtue. Elvino demands proof and Rodolfo, seeing the sleeping Amina walking across the high, dangerously unstable mill bridge, warns that to wake her would be fatal. All watch as she relives her betrothal and her grief at Elvino's rejection, taking the withered flowers in her hand. (Aria: Amina Ah! non credea mirati / si presto estino, o fiore / "I had not thought I would see you, dear flowers, perished so soon". Then as she reaches the other side safely, the distraught Elvino calls to her and she is taken into his arms. Rodolfo hands him the ring which he places on her finger, at which time she awakens and is amazed by what has happened. All rejoice. In an aria finale, Amina expresses her joy: Ah! non giunge uman pensiero / al contento ond'io son piena / "Human thought cannot conceive of the happiness that fills me".

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Amina - Eglise Gutierrez
Elvino - Antonino Siragusa
Rodolfo - Simone Alaimo
Lisa - Sandra Pastrana
Alessio - Gabriele Nani
Notaro - Max René Cosotti
Teresa - Gabriella Colecchia

Conductor - Maurizio Benini
Orchestra - Teatro Lirico di Cagliari
Chorus - Teatro Lirico di Cagliari

Callas sings La Sonnambula
Maria Callas La sonnambula ''Oh! se una volta sola-Ah, non credea mirarti'' 1965'
Opera: La sonnambula
Libretto: Felice Romani
Aria: Oh! se una volta sola-Ah, non credea mirarti

Maria Callas-Soprano
Georges Prêtre-Conductor
Orchestre National de l'ORTF

Filmed live at the ORTF, Paris, May 1965

Anna Netrebko - La Sonnambula - Bellini (London 2007)
Elvira - Nino Machaidze
Arturo Talbot - Juan Diego Flórez
Sir Riccardo Forth - Gabriele Viviani
Sir Giorgio - Ildebrando d' Arcangelo
Enrichetta di Francia - Nadia Pirazzini
Sir Bruno Robertson - Gianluca Floris
Lord Gualtiero Valton - Ugo Guagliardo

Conductor - Michele Mariotti
Orchestra - Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Chorus - Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Natalie Dessay - Bellini - I Puritani - Vien, diletto
Vien, diletto (I Puritani Act II)
Conducted by Evelino Pidò
Bellini - I Puritani - Anna Netrebko (Vien, diletto, e in ciel la luna)
Vincenzo Bellini, I Puritani - Vien, diletto, e in ciel la luna ! (Act 2)
The Metropolitan Opera, 2007; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (Patrick Summers), Chorus and Ballet.
Anna Netrebko (Elvira), soprano,
Eric Cutler (Lord Arturo Talbo), tenor,
Franco Vassallo (Riccardo), John Relyea (Giorgio)
The Capulets and the Montagues - 1830

Guiditta Grisi and Amalia Schutz at La Scala, December 1830
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) is an Italian opera (Tragedia lirica) in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini. The libretto by Felice Romani was a reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliet for an opera by Nicola Vaccai called Giulietta e Romeo and based on the play of the same name by Luigi Scevola written in 1818, thus an Italian source rather than taken directly from William Shakespeare.

Behind the libretto stand many Italian, ultimately Renaissance sources created by Matteo Bandello, and probably through their French translations by François de Belleforest and Pierre Boaistuau, rather than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The theme was very popular in Italy: there were earlier libretti by Luzzi for Marescalchi (1785, Venice), Foppa for Zingarelli (1796, Milan), and Buonaiuti for Pietro Carlo Guglielmi (1810, London). The first Italian libretto explicitly based on Shakespeare’s play did not appear until 1865; it was by M. M. Marcello, for Filippo Marchetti’s Romeo e Giulietta given in Trieste.

Bellini was persuaded to write the opera for the 1830 Carnival season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, with only a month and a half available for composition. He succeeded by appropriating a large amount of music previously written for his unsuccessful opera Zaira.

The first performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi took place on 11 March 1830.

Composition history
Following the poor reception which Zaira received in Parma, Bellini returned to Milan by the end of June 1829 with no contract for another opera in sight. Giovanni Pacini, another Catanese composer, was still in Milan after the well-received premiere of his Il Talismano, and he received offers to compose an opera for both Turin and Venice for the following Carnival season. He accepted both offers, but the La Fenice impresario, Alessandro Lanari, included a proviso that if he were to be unable to fulfill the Venice contract, then it would be transferred to Bellini.

A firm offer of a contract for a new opera for Venice appeared in the autumn, a contract which also included a provision that Il pirata would also be given during the 1830 Carnival season. By mid-December Bellini was in Venice where he heard the same singers who were to perform in Pirata: they were Giuditta Grisi, the tenor Lorenzo Bonfigli, and Giulio Pellegrini.

Belini in Venice
With rehearsals for Pirata underway in late December, Bellini was given notice by Lanari that it was doubtful whether Pacini would be present in time to stage an opera and that a contract was to be prepared for Bellini to provide a new opera but with the proviso that it would only become effective on 14 January. Accepting the offer on 5 January, Bellini stated that he would set Romani's libretto for Giulietta Capellio, that he required 45 days between receipt of the libretto and the first performance, and that he would accept 325 napoleoni d'oro (about 8,000 lire).

The tentative contract deadline was extended until 20 January, but by that date Romani was in Venice, having already re-worked much of his earlier libretto which he had written for Nicola Vaccai's 1825 opera, Giulietta e Romeo, the source for which was the play of the same name by Luigi Scevola in 1818. The two men set to work, but with the winter weather in Venice becoming increasingly bad, Bellini fell ill; however, he had to continue to work under great pressure within a now-limited timetable. Eventually, revisions to Romani's libretto were agreed to, a new title was given to the work, and Bellini reviewed his score of Zaira to see how some of the music could be set to the new text, but composing the part of Romeo for Grisi. He also took Giulietta’s "Oh quante volte" and Nelly’s romanza from Adelson e Salvini. The Giulietta was to be sung by Rosalbina Caradori-Allan.

In Venice to prepare the local première of Il pirata with Giuditta Grisi as Imogene, Bellini wrote I Capuleti in a month and a half (starting about 20 January), writing the part of Romeo for Grisi. Her presence, together with a relatively weak male singers in the company, may have conditioned the choice of subject. Giulietta was sung by Maria Caterina Rosalbina Caradori-Allan, Tebaldo by Lorenzo Bonfigli and Lorenzo by Ranieri Pocchini Cavalieri. Bellini had intended the part of Lorenzo for a bass, but in act 1 of the autograph score he transposed it for tenor, and in act 2 the part is written in the tenor clef throughout. Although these changes were possibly for Senigallia who sang the role in the summer of 1830. Cavalieri, the singer at the première, appears to have been a tenor. However, published scores and most performances assign the role to a bass.

Bellini thoroughly reworked nine melodies from his unsuccessful Zaira into I Capuleti e i Montecchi: he explained that "Zaira, hissed at Parma, was avenged by I Capuleti". In addition, Giulietta’s "Oh quante volte" in act 1 uses Nelly’s romanza, "Dopo l’oscuro nembo" from Adelson e Salvini, written for Naples in 1825.

Performance history
19th century

At the premiere of I Capuleti e i Montecchi on 11 March 1830 success for Bellini returned. Weinstock describes the premiere as "an unclouded and immediate success" but it was only able to be performed eight times before the La Fenice season closed on 21 March. A local newspaper, I Teatri, reported that "all things considered, this opera by Bellini has aroused as much enthusiasm in Venice as La straniera aroused in Milan from the first evening on".

By this time, Bellini knew that he had achieved fame: writing on 28 March, he stated that:

My style is now heard in the most important theatres in the world...and with the greatest enthusiasm.
Before leaving Venice, Bellini was offered a contract to produce another new opera for La Fenice for the 1830—31 Carnival season, and—upon his return to Milan—he also found an offer from Genoa for a new opera but proposed for the same time period, an offer he was forced to reject.

Later that year, Bellini prepared a version of Capuleti for La Scala which was given on 26 December, lowering Giulietta’s part for the mezzo-soprano Amalia Schütz-Oldosi (de).

Early librettos divide the opera into four parts. At Bologna in 1832 Maria Malibran replaced the last part with the tomb scene from the final act of Vaccai's Giulietta e Romeo, a tradition followed by other contralto Romeos. (Vaccai's scene is included as an appendix to Ricordi's vocal score). This version was performed in 1833 in Paris and London on 20 July with Giuditta Pasta as Romeo. In Florence the following year, Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis restored Bellini's ending. Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient's singing as Romeo in Leipzig in 1834 and Magdeburg in 1835 created a profound impression on the young Wagner.

Very quickly after the premiere, performances began to be given all over Italy in about thirty different productions up to 1835. It continued to see seen fairly regularly until the end of the 1860s. Details of European productions, which were numerous and which began in Dresden on 1 October 1831, continued into the 1840s. The opera was first staged in the UK on 20 July 1833 and in the US on 4 April 1837 at the St Charles Theatre in New Orleans; later, first US performances were given in Boston on 13 May 1847 and in New York on 28 January 1848.

20th century and beyond
I Capuleti was revived in 1935, the centenary of Bellini’s death, at Catania and it was given its first US performance on 4 April 1937 in New Orleans. It appeared in 1954 at Palermo, with Giulietta Simionato as Romeo and Rosanna Carteri as Giulietta. In 1966 Claudio Abbado prepared a version for La Scala in which Romeo was sung by a tenor, Giacomo Aragall; the cast included Renata Scotto and Margherita Rinaldi alternating in the role of Giulietta and Luciano Pavarotti as Tebaldo. This version was also performed in Amsterdam, Rome and Philadelphia and at the 1967 Edinburgh Festival, but it is no longer used.

Modern day productions have been mounted fairly frequently, with 102 performances of 27 productions given (or to be given) in 24 cities since 1 January 2011 and forward into 2015. A San Francisco Opera production opened on 29 September 2012 featuring Nicole Cabell and Joyce DiDonato as the lovers, and both singers were part of a Lyric Opera of Kansas City production in September 2013.

On 28 September 2014, Washington Concert Opera will present a concert performance of the work with Kate Lindsey as Romeo, Nicole Cabell as Giulietta, and David Portillo as Tebaldo, while it will be staged at the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania in October.[ Other performances to be given include Fabio Biondi conducting his ensemble Europa Galante on period instruments at Teatro Flavio Vespasiano in Rieti.

In this version of the story the Capuleti and Montecchi are rival political factions (Guelph and Ghibelline respectively) rather than Shakespeare's "two households, both alike in dignity". Capellio is the father of Giulietta (Juliet) and the leader of the Capuleti. Giulietta is betrothed to Tebaldo (Tybalt), however she has already met and fallen in love with Romeo, leader of the Montecchi. This is a secret to all but Lorenzo (Lawrence), her doctor and confidant. Complicating matters, Romeo has inadvertently killed the son of Capellio (Giulietta's brother) in battle.[18]

Place: around the palace of Capellio (Capulet) in Verona
Time: 13th century


Act 1
Scene 1: The Palace

Capellio and Tebaldo address their followers advising rejection of an offer of peace to be brought by an envoy from Romeo, the man who had killed Capellio's son. Tebaldo states that he will avenge the killing to celebrate his marriage to Giulietta: (Aria, È serbata a questo acciaro / "And reserved for this sword / is the vengeance of your blood") and he urges Capellio to hasten the moment when he may marry Giulietta and then avenge Capellio, who wants the marriage to take place immediately, brushing aside the objections of Lorenzo that Giulietta is ill with a fever. Tebaldo proclaims his love for Guilietta: Si: M'Abbreccia / "I love her so much / She is so dear to me". Capellio's men urge him on and arrangements are made to have the wedding take place that day.

While the men proclaim their hatred of the Montagues, Romeo enters in the guise of a Montague envoy, offering peace to be guaranteed by the marriage of Romeo and Giulietta. He explains that Romeo regrets the death of Capellio's son (Ascolta: Se Romeo t'uccise un figlio / "Listen: If Romeo killed your son / he brought him death in battle / And you must blame fate"), and offers to take his place as a second son for the old man. Capellio indicates that Tebaldo has already taken on that role and—together with all his men—rejects all idea of peace: "War! War", the men proclaim. Romeo accepts their challenge of war: (Cabaletta: La tremenda ultrice spada/ "Romeo will prepare to brandish the dread avenging sword / Romeo accepts your challenge of war.)

Scene 2: Giulietta's room

Giulietta enters proclaiming her frustration against all the wedding preparations which she sees about her. Recitative: "I burn, a fire consumes me wholly. In vain do I seek solace from the winds... Where are you Romeo?". Romanza: Oh! quante volte / "Oh how many times do I weep and beg heaven for you". Lorenzo enters, explaining that he has arranged for Romeo to come to her by a secret door and, when Romeo enters, he tries to persuade Giulietta to escape with him. Aria, Romeo: Si, fuggire,a noi non resta / "Yes, flee, for us there is no other escape"; this becomes a duet as he demands: "What power is greater for you than love?", but she resists in the name of duty, law, and honour, declaring that she would prefer to die of a broken heart. Romeo is distraught: aria, Romeo: Ah crudel, d'onor ragioni / "Oh cruel one, you speak of honour when you were stolen from me?" Giulietta responds "Ah what more you ask of me?", then, in a duet finale in which each expresses his/her conflicting emotions, the situation becoming more and more impossible for them both.

The sounds of wedding preparations are heard: she urges him to flee; he declares that he will stay and, in a final duet in which Romeo pleads "Come, ah Come! Rely on me", Giulietta continues to resist. Each leaves.

Scene 3: Another part of the palace

The Capuleti are celebrating the forthcoming marriage. All those assembled join in. Romeo enters in disguise and tells Lorenzo, who immediately recognises him, that he is awaiting the support of his soldiers, one thousand of whom are assembled dressed as Ghibelines and who are intent on preventing the wedding. Lorenzo remonstrates with her, but suddenly, the armed attack by the Montecchi take place as they surge into the palace, Romeo with them. Giulietta is alone, lamenting the state of affairs. Aria: Qual fuoco / "What fire". Then she sees Romeo, who has appeared, and again he urges her to run away with him: "I ask this in the name of promised love", he declares. Capellio, Tebaldo and the Ghibelines discover them, and believe that Romeo is still the Montecchi envoy. As Giulietta tries to shield him from her father, he proudly tells them his true name. The Montagues enter to protect him and, in a concerted finale involving all from both factions, the lovers are separated by their family members, finally proclaiming: Al furor che si ridesta / "If all hope of ever seeing each other again in life / this will not be the last farewell". Capellio, Tebaldo, and Lorenzo become part of the quintet finale, as the ranks of the supporters of both sides join in the swell.

Francesco Hayez, Romeo and Juliet's last kiss

Act 2

Scene 1: Another part of the Palace

Introduced by an arioso for cello, Giulietta awaits news of the fighting. Lorenzo enters and immediately tells her that Romeo lives, but she will soon be taken away to Tebaldo's castle. He offers a solution: that she must take a sleeping potion which will make it appear that she has died. She will then be taken to her family's tomb where he will arrange for Romeo and himself to be present when she awakes. In a state of indecision, she contemplates her options. (Cavatina: Morte io non temo, il sai / "You know that I do not fear death, / I have always asked death of you...") and she expresses doubts while Lorenzo urges to take the potion, given that her father is about to come into the room. Taking the bottle, she declares that "only death can wrest me from my cruel father".

With his followers, Capellio comes to order her to leave with Tebaldo at dawn. Her ladies beg her father to be kinder towards her. Proclaiming that she is close to death, she begs her father's forgiveness: Ah! non poss'io partire / "Ah, I cannot leave without your forgiveness.....Let your anger turn just once to peace", but Capellio rejects her and orders her to her room. He then instructs his men to keep watch on Lorenzo of whom he is suspicious; they are ordered not to allow Lorenzo to have contact with anyone.

Scene 2: The grounds of the palace

An orchestral introduction precedes Romeo's entrance and introduces what Weinstock describes as "his bitter recitative", Deserto è il loco / "This place is abandoned", in which he laments Lorenzo's apparent forgetfulness in failing to meet him as planned. He then hears the noise of someone entering. It is Tebaldo, and the two men begin an angry duet (Tebaldo: Stolto! a un sol mio grido / "With one cry a thousand men will arrive". Romeo: "I scorn you. You will wish the alps and the sea stood between us"). As they are about to begin fighting, the sound of a funeral procession is heard (Pace alla tua bell'anima). They stop and listen, only then realising that it a procession for Giulietta. In a duet finale, the rivals are united in remorse, asking each other for death as they continue to fight.

Scene 3: The tombs of the Capuleti

Along with his Montecchi followers, Romeo enters the tomb of the Capuleti. The followers mourn Giulietta's death. At her tomb and in order to bid her farewell, Romeo asks for it to be opened. He also asks that the Montecchi leave him alone with Giulietta: Aria: Deh! tu, bell'anima / "Alas! You, fair sole / Rising up to heaven / turn to me, bear me with you". Realising his only course of action will be death, he swallows poison and, laying down beside her, he hears a sigh, then the sound of her voice. Giulietta wakes up to find that Romeo knew nothing of her simulated death and had been unaware of Lorenzo's plan. Urging him to leave with her, Giulietta gets up but Romeo states that he must remain there forever, explaining that he has already acted to end his life. In a final duet, the couple clings to each other. Then he dies and Giulietta, unable to live on without him, falls dead onto his body. The Capuleti and Montecchi rush in to discover the dead lovers, with Capellio demanding who is responsible: "You, ruthless man", they all proclaim.

Musical borrowings

Musicologist Mary Ann Smart has examined the issue of Bellini's "borrowings" and she notes: "Bellini's famously scrupulous attitude to the matching of music and poetry did not prevent him from borrowing from himself almost as frequently as did the notoriously economical Handel and Rossini." Specifically, in regard to I Capuleti, she continues:

Bellini lost no time in rescuing much of [Zaira's] material, reusing no fewer than eight numbers in his next opera. The music that had failed so completely in Parma was acclaimed in Venice in its new guise, probably more because the Venice audience was inherently better disposed to Bellini's style than because of any aesthetic improvement. But if we can take Bellini at his word, the extensive self-borrowing involved in recasting Zaira as I Capuleti was no lazy response to a looming deadline: although he was indeed forced to compose faster than he liked, he remarked repeatedly on how hard he was working, on one occasion complaining that the act 1 finale of Capuleti—one of the numbers copied almost literally from Zaira had nearly "driven him crazy." The sheer volume of common material in these two operas ensures that dramatic resemblance between the recycled melodies in I Capuleti and their original incarnations in Zaira will be the exception rather than the rule.
Smart then provides one specific example whereby word metering (the number of syllables for each line, traditionally written in a specific meter by the poet—the librettist—of from five to eight or more to each line of verse) is changed to work in the new context:

What are we to make of Bellini's decision to bring back the cabaletta for the prima donna soprano in Zaira, a number whose prevailing sentiment is giddy anticipation of an imminent wedding, as Romeo's lamenting slow movement in the last act of I Capuleti, sung over Juliet's inanimate body? Not only is one of Bellini's most frivolous soprano cabalettas pressed into service as a monologue confronting death, but the number is transferred from the female to the male lead (although both roles are sung by female voices, since the role of Romeo is written for a mezzo-soprano). And as if to emphasize the violence of the transformation, the poetic texts are in different verse meters—Zaira's cabaletta in settenari, Romeo's in the less common quinari The means by which Bellini and Romani stretched Romeo's quinari lines to fit a melody originally conceived for settenari is ingenious, achieved simply by inserting word repetitions between the second and third syllables of each line.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bellini: I Capuleti e I Montecchi. Anna Netrebko - Daniela Barcellona. 2004
Romeo - Daniela Barcellona
Giulietta - Anna Netrebko
Tebaldo - Joseph Calleja
Capellio - Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Lorenzo - Chester Patton
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Mozarteum Orchester
Conductor - Ivor Bolton
Salzburg August 21, 2004
Anna Netrebko - I Capuleti - Eccomi... Oh! quante volte
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini-1830), Paris
Opéra Bastille June 2008.
Anna Netrebko soprano (she was pregnant more 6 months), Evelino Pidò conductor, Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Paris.

ACTE I, Scene 2 - Giulietta's room - Giulietta laments the contrast between the happy preparations for her wedding and her own sadness and longs to be with her secret lover, Romeo:

Eccomi in lieta vesta...
Eccomi adorna...come vittima all'ara.
Oh! almen potessi qual vittima
cader dell'ara al piede!
O nuziali tede, aborrite
cosi, cosi fatali,
state, ah! siate per me faci ferali.
Ardo...una vampa, un foco
tutta mi strugge
Un refrigero ai venti io chiedo invano.
Ove sei tu, Romeo? In qual terra t'aggiri?
Dove, dove, inviarti, dove i miei sospiri?

Oh quante volte, oh quante
ti chiedo al ciel piangendo!
Con quale ardor t'attendo,
e inganno il mio desir!
Raggio del tuo sembiante
ah! parmi il brillar del giorno,
ah! l'aura che spira intorno
mi sembra un tuo sospir
ah! l'aura che spira, ecc.

Netrebko & Garanca in I Capuleti e i Montecchi
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