The earliest use of the term “bel canto” occurred in late 17th-century Italy, when it was applied to a sophisticated model of singing that was evolving there among practitioners of operatic and sacred music. In the mid-19th century, bel canto gained a more specific meaning when it was employed to distinguish what by now had developed into the traditional Italian vocal model from more forceful, less ingratiating styles of singing. These newer styles of singing had arisen as a result of 19th-century operas growing increasingly dramatic, pitting performers against louder and denser orchestral accompaniments in bigger theatres. Nonetheless, “neither musical nor general dictionaries saw fit to attempt [a] definition [of bel canto] until after 1900”. The term remains vague and ambiguous in the 21st century and is often used nostalgically to evoke a lost singing tradition.
- Those who regard the art of singing as anything more than a means to an end, do not comprehend the true purpose of that art, much less can they hope ever to fulfil that purpose. The true purpose of singing is to give utterance to certain hidden depths in our nature which can be adequately expressed in no other way. The voice is the only vehicle perfectly adapted to this purpose; it alone can reveal to us our inmost feelings, because it is our only direct means of expression. If the voice, more than any language, more than any other instrument of expression, can reveal to us our own hidden depths, and convey those depths to other souls of men, it is because voice vibrates directly to the feeling itself, when it fulfils its natural mission. – Clara Kathleen Rogers: The Philosophy Of Singing (1893)
I am proud to post here the new slideshow with Bellini aria by my sister, Tatiana Samoylova who is a talented Belcanto singer. All images taken by me, music mixed by her talented husband.
Now see for yourself:
Aria of Elvira, I Puritani, Bellini