“Per pietà, bell’idol mio”

Vincenzo Bellini, "Per pietà, bell'idol mio"
Maria Novella Malfatti, soprano; Enrique Mazzola, piano

The tragically short-lived Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) was the most romance-oriented of all nineteenth-century Italian opera composers. The exploration of love's sweetness, but more often its melancholy, inhabits Bellini's more than 30 songs. Once his talent brought him renown in opera—first in Naples and Milan, then later in Paris—he was able to frequent fashionable cultural salons that brought him great attention from these cities' elite in the world of arts and letters. He responded to their admiration (and, of course, to the desire of prominent singers, all of them eager to perform his music) with an output of songs that flatter voices and give us all of this composer's extraordinary expressiveness.

One of several Bellini songs to have earned a lasting place in the repertoire is "Per pietà, bell'idol mio" ("For pity's sake, my beautiful idol"), part of a collection of fifteen intimate compositions for voice and piano, composed in the 1820s. Marked allegro agitato, the rippling accompaniment churns along with great energy, and the vocal line hurtles forth as well, with just a couple of pauses for calm before letting the emotions burst out again. Particularly striking for the listener is the transition from minor to major, two-thirds of the way through the song. The singer is addressing a lover, and the sentiments are desperate: "Don't say I'm ungrateful—it's heaven that made me unhappy. The gods know I'm faithful to you!"

Meet the artists

*** Ryan Opera Center Ensemble

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About the Ryan Opera Center

About the Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is Lyric's preeminent artist-development program that nurtures the talents of some of the most promising operatic singers and pianists of each generation. The program's Ensemble members earn their coveted spot by successfully auditioning among more than 400 artists worldwide. Its alumni are among the dominant names in opera today. Donor generosity ensures continued unparalleled training, performance experience, and professional readiness of Ensemble members. This highly competitive program, established in 1974, is honored to enjoy the support of acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming as Advisor, along with full-time staff Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.

Photos: Kyle Flubacker