During my tenure at Victorian Opera, we have embarked on a project to perform all the major Bellini operas in concert. The cynic might well ask “why”? – and add prevailing criticisms about poor orchestration, formulaic accompaniments and lack of dramatic differentiation between characters. All well and good – and perhaps intellectually sustainable points of view – which overlook one important phenomenon: an individuality of musical personality, which has an emotional eloquence of uncommon power that engages the public because of its lasting vitality.

Homage to Bellini A homage to Bellini

Bellini had great regard for the quality of his chosen texts. His most successful collaborator was Felice Romani (1788-1865) who was the librettist for seven of Bellini’s greatest works, including Normaand La Sonnambula(and would have been for I Puritanihad he not missed the deadlines for Beatrice de Tenda).

Romani produced nearly 100 librettos for composers as diverse as Mercadante, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti and Verdi; he was a lawyer, interested in mythology, French literature and antiquities. With this rather formidable background as an academician, one would be disinclined to expect the prodigious lyrical gifts Romani displays so frequently. He...