Performance Wednesday, March 18, 2015 | 8 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
A highlight of Joyce DiDonato’s Perspectives series is this celebration of music from the bel canto era. Curated by the mezzo-soprano, this evening of arias, ensembles, and orchestral selections ranges from Rossini and Bellini to surprising gems by lesser-known composers of the time. Joining The Philadelphia Orchestra is a lineup of well-known bel canto stars: soprano Nicole Cabell, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and conductor Maurizio Benini.


  • The Philadelphia Orchestra
    Maurizio Benini, Conductor
  • Nicole Cabell, Soprano
  • Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor


  • ROSSINI Overture to Aureliano in Palmira
  • CARAFA "Oh, di sorte crudel" from Le nozze di Lammermoor
  • DONIZETTI "Havvi un Dio che in sua clemenza" from Maria di Rohan
  • DONIZETTI "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore
  • DONIZETTI "Prendi, per me sei libero" from L'elisir d'amore
  • PACINI "Ove t'aggiri, o barbaro" from Stella di Napoli
  • BELLINI Overture to Norma
  • BELLINI "Oh! quante volte" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi
  • BELLINI "Oh! mia Giulietta" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi
  • DONIZETTI "La maîtresse du roi... Ange si pur" from La favorita
  • ROSSINI "Reidi al soglio" from Zelmira


"Fra il padre, e fra l'amante" from Rossini's La donna del lago
Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano | Orchestra dell'accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia | Edoardo Muller, Conductor

At a Glance

Italian opera in the 18th century focused increasingly on the integrity of the dramatic narrative, allowing the music to support the story rather than serving as an end in itself. Significantly, though, most of those developments were instituted by foreign composers, including Handel, Gluck, and Mozart. It was probably only a matter of time before the Italians themselves reclaimed the lead in the evolution of opera, a genre that, of course, they had invented in the first place. And that resurgence of opera composed by Italians was, from the 1820s to the 1840s, characterized by a concentration on beautiful singing—bel canto—above all other considerations.

Today, three names dominate the bel canto repertory: Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Vincenzo Bellini. But many other composers also played important roles in its development and enjoyed popular success alongside their better-known contemporaries. Without the contributions of Saverio Mercadante, Michele Carafa, Giovanni Pacini, Nicola Vaccai, Gioacchino Cocchi, the Ricci brothers (Luigi and Federico), and even the young Giacomo Meyerbeer (who studied in Italy and had his first international success there), bel canto opera wouldn’t have enjoyed the same degree of success and influence.

What unites the music of all these composers is a concentrated attention to the long and smooth vocal line, even tone across a singer’s registers, and flawless technique, all supported by unobtrusive orchestral accompaniments. And if some of the opera’s dramatic integrity was sacrificed, or the narrative pacing interrupted by this attention to the pathos and lyrical beauty of the voice, then so be it. That’s precisely what these composers were aiming for, and they succeeded brilliantly at it.


Joyce DiDonato: bel canto and new repertoire

Perspectives: Joyce DiDonato
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Sponsored by DeWitt Stern Group, Inc.
Funding for the Carnegie Hall Live broadcast series is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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