Performance | Great Opera Singers | Early Romantic | Classical
The early nineteenth century saw the rise of the operatic personality, or prima donna. Composers built working relationships with individual singers and tailored their roles to the vocal characteristics of their favoured performers. Meyerbeer, for example, carefully considered his performers’ vocal nuances and technical capabilities, and if the singer he had in mind could not perform, he would find a replacement and re-write the part. The most celebrated of all Meyerbeer’s interpreters was the great Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (1820–87), whom he discovered. Nicknamed ‘the Swedish nightingale’, Lind was principally a recitalist and oratorio singer, but her short operatic career made a huge impact.
Another singer whose performances helped the success of Meyerbeer’s work, specifically Le prophète, was the French mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot. Similarly, Bellini wrote leading roles for another great operatic soprano of the era, Giuditta Pasta (1797–1865), including Amina in La sonnambula and the title role in Norma. During the 1830s Pasta was recognized as the greatest soprano in Europe, appearing in many Rossini operas, and contributing much to the success of works by Donizetti, including Anna Bolena. Her special combination of lyrical flair and dramatic potency was a great influence for Bellini. This illustrates the reciprocal relationship that existed between composers and performers.
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