Bel canto - Deepstash
Bel canto

Bel canto

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What is Bel Canto

What is Bel Canto

Bel canto (Italian for "beautiful singing" or "beautiful song" )—with several similar constructions (bellezze del canto , bell'arte del canto )—is a term with several meanings that relate to Italian singing.


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When bel canto appeared

Since the bel canto style flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the music of Handel and his contemporaries, as well as that of Mozart and Rossini, benefits from an application of bel canto principles. Operas received the most dramatic use of the techniques, but the bel canto style applies equally to oratorio, though in a somewhat less flamboyant way. Nonetheless, singers needed to keep the emotional drama moving forward, and so they used the principles of bel canto to help them render the repeated material in a new emotional guise.


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Bel canto teachers

Bel canto teachers

Two famous 18th-century teachers of the style were Antonio Bernacchi (1685–1756) and Nicola Porpora (1686–1768), but many others existed. A number of these teachers were castrati. Singer/author John Potter declares in his book Tenor: History of a Voice that:

"For much of the 18th century castrati defined the art of singing; it was the loss of their irrecoverable skills that in time created the myth of bel canto , a way of singing and conceptualizing singing that was entirely different from anything that the world had heard before or would hear again."


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Why bel canto disappeared

Why bel canto disappeared

One reason for the eclipse of the old Italian singing model was the growing influence within the music world of bel canto's detractors, who considered it to be outmoded and condemned it as vocalization devoid of content. To others, however, bel canto became the vanished art of elegant, refined, sweet-toned musical utterance. Rossini lamented in a conversation that took place in Paris in 1858 that: "Alas for us, we have lost our bel canto".


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Franz Sieber on bel canto

Franz Sieber wrote: "In our time, when the most offensive shrieking under the extenuating device of 'dramatic singing' has spread everywhere, when the ignorant masses appear much more interested in how loud rather than how beautiful the singing is, a collection of songs will perhaps be welcome which – as the title purports – may assist in restoring bel canto to its rightful place."


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