Bellini and Melody

Feb 9, 2017

Vincenzo Bellini—the composer of Norma, La Sonnambula, and I Puritani, to name a few of his best-known operas—is famous for the beauty of his melodies, but also for his ability to use melody to define character, express passion, and advance dramatic action. And he had nothing but disdain for what he called the “ridiculous rules” that some people thought composers should be obliged to follow when setting poetry to music.


“Carve in your head in letters of brass,” Bellini once wrote to a colleague. “An opera must draw tears, cause horror, bring death, by means of song… Poetry and music, to make their effect, must be true to nature, and that is all: anyone who forgets this is lost and will end by producing a dull, heavy work that can please only the pedants. It will never appeal to the heart… whereas if the heart is moved one will always be in the right…”

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.