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Bel Canto Opera 1800–1840

Developments in Opera

The Napoleonic period gives birth to a style of opera that uses the beauty and dramatic power of the human voice to tell wildly melodramatic stories.

In serious opera, tragic endings become fashionable; in comic opera or opera buffa, slapstick is still king.

Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti compete as the hottest composers.

The Masterworks

Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti:
A dreamy young woman's unscrupulous brother destroys her love affair, her sanity, and eventually her life. Everyone's favorite bel canto tragedy.

The Barber of Seville by Rossini:
Quick-witted Figaro (the same character who appears in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro) helps a lovesick young count steal a girl away from a crotchety old man. One of opera's most beloved comedies.

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Photo Credit

The Barber of Seville, 2000 © Gary Smith photo