Friday, 8 April 2016


Composer Gaetano Donizetti
Today’s Quote of the Day / ‘Aria’ of the Month feature comes to us in the form of commemorative observance of the death of Italian belcantist composer Gaetano Donizetti, who left this earthly sphere 168 years ago today on April 8, 1848 at Bergamo in Italy from the advanced stages of neurosyphilis.

Today’s delicious quote was authored by a pubescent Donizetti, who, filled to the brim with of youthful optimism, would pen a poem at the tender age of 14 which would seem to accurately foreshadow his future successes in the realm of classical music and opera and certify him as an Icon of the artform:

"Ah, by Bacchus, with this aria I shall receive universal applause. People will say to me, “Bravo maestro!” I, in a very modest manner, shall walk about with bowed head; I’ll have rave reviews...I can become immortal... My mind is vast, my genius swift... And at composing, a thunderbolt am I!"

Donizetti’s ‘prediction’ was never so true as when applied to the infamous “Mad Scene” from his 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor (an opera based on the writings of Sir Walter Scott, who penned the novel “The Bride of Lammermoor” in 1819, itself influenced by actual events).
Not only had Donizetti scored for his female lead a recitative and aria that would become something of a show-off piece (the fabulous “Il Dolce Suono” from said ‘Mad Scene’ that would become famous an an opportunist piece for those highly aesthetically gifted sopranos specializing in the bel canto style). 

Playwright Salvadore Cammarano
would become Italy's most sought-after
librettist following the success of Lucia
di Lammermoor

The success of Lucia di Lammermoor wasn't just limited to high ticket sales or the blossoming reputation of it's composer: the dramma tragico certified Italian playwright Salvadore Cammarano as a most sought-after librettist, having been the fourth and most successful librettist to set Scott’s Lucia to music. Cammarano would go on to pen seven more operas with Donizetti during Lucia di Lammermoor's ten-year triumph over Italy as a “masterpiece” of the bel canto artform. He would later become librettist to one Giuseppe Verdi, penning the words to operas Alzira (1845), La battaglia di Legnano (1849) and Luisa Miller in (1849).

Following the rise of Wagnerism and the Romantic movement in Western classical music, both the bel canto artform and Donizetti’s most famous ‘scene’ fell out of vogue until the resurgence of the art of “beautiful singing” once more took hold of audiences in the late twentieth century, with the recitative and aria in question once more made famous (and, quite frankly, made exploited) by stratospherically talented belcantist sopranos Joan Sutherland, and a rather muted Maria Callas (who originally objected to the insertion of vocal abbellimenti as made popular by her contemporaries, preferring to sing the piece "come scritto" (as written). Even when sung under these 'normal conditions', Callas’ 1952 performance at Torino in Italy under the direction of conductor Oliviero di Fabritiis would showcase the both the demanding nature of the aria and of the divas stunningly agile vocal prowess, which, like a gloriously emboldened eagle taking flight, Callas' vocal flexibility would appear to soar to dizzying heights.
 As interest in the bel canto style continued to flourish well into the late 20th and present century, Donizetti’s ‘showpiece aria’ would continue to be performed by remarkably agile masters of the flashy coloratura vocal style, usually featuring highly embellished ornamentation.

Enjoy below April’s ‘Aria’ of the Month, the so-called “Mad Scene” from Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, featuring the beautiful yet melancholic recitative “Il Dolce Suono” as sung by soprano Joan Sutherland (aka LA STUPENDA), in what became known as her ‘breakthrough’ role. Video below features a "recreation" of her debut as Lucia:


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