Vincenzo Bellini was an Italian composer and one of the great masters of 19th-century opera. He was born in Catania on November 3, 1801, into a family of musicians, and was taught music from a young age. He immediately displayed a great talent for composition and the Catania City Council awarded him a scholarship to study at the Naples conservatory when he was 18. He graduated in 1825. The next year he obtained his first great success with the opera Bianca e Gernando.
In 1827 he moved to Milan, where the prestigious La Scala theater commissioned him to produce an opera. On October 27, Il Pirata was performed for the first time. It was an enormous success. In Il Pirata, the first of seven written in collaboration with librettist Felice Romani, Bellini’s style was already well defined. The melodies of his arias were passionately and heart-wrenchingly lyrical, and at the same time essential, with no excesses, making the libretto’s verses clearer and easier to understand.
Bellini’s success continued over the following years with operas such as La straniera in 1829, I Capuleti e Montecchi in 1830, and La sonnambula in 1831. But Norma, his most famous opera, was a fiasco at its debut in 1831. It wasn’t until much later that the opera came to be appreciated. Today it is considered Bellini’s masterpiece.
Bellini left Milan in 1833, working first in London, then in Paris, where his last opera – I Puritani e i Cavalieri – was staged on January 24, 1835. It was another triumph, earning him the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest honor. A few months later he was stricken by a stomach infection. Bellini died on September 23, 1835. He was only 33.