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Usually the term refers to a fertile era in Italian opera at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Composers like Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini used long-lined melody and bravura passagework to tell their high-flown, romantic love stories.
Many of these operas end with the exquisite death of the lead soprano, who gets to sing a mad scene Lucia di Lammermoor or walk into a funeral pyre with her unfaithful but repentant paramoor Norma. Over the years I have developed a love-hate relationship with the bel canto operas.
Without that grounded passion, the music can seem thin and formulaic. So I duke it out with pre-Verdi opera. But I remain wedded to the essential principles of bel canto: the expressive allure of long-lined melody allied to a glorification of sensitivity and fragility.
Among the Great American Songbook composers, the one who most embodies the bel canto ideal is Billy Strayhorn. I wish I could share that performance with you today, but the clip is not yet available.
What I can offer you is the recording that inspired me: the divine Fred Hersch, who puts a pink and silver halo around this heavenly tune. Read other posts by Steven Blier. No Song is Safe From Us.
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Jax Jazz Collective: Lotus Blossom: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
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No Song is Safe From Us
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