|VINCENZO BELLINI E LA SUA ORIGINE ABRUZZESE|
VINCENZO BELLINI AND HIS ABRUZZAN ORIGIN
indicate nobility, it is rather an expression for people who are very comfortably well-off and well-placed in society, it all goes to demonstrate that the house of Bellini was so well-esteemed that such people were their close friends.
However that may be, over the years members of the Bellini family ennobled themselves more and more by their probity and hard work and at its height the family produced that Vincenzo Tobia who was the paternal ancestor of the composer of the glorious “Norma”.
He too was a musician. A frequent custom in the best families of the three Abruzzos: First Ulteriore, Second Ulteriore and Citeriore, that is the further and furthest from the Pescara (River), was to send their young sons to study music in Naples.
It is well known that at that time there were four flourishing Conservatories in the capital of the Kingdom: Sant’ Onofrio was the most famous, it’s Directors were Scarlatti, Porpora, Leo, Durante and from where emerged, Piccini, Sacchini and Paisiello; S. Maria di Loreto, where Guglielmi and Cimarosa studied; the Pietà dei Turchini, where Tretta and Paër received their musical education and lastly, the Poveri di Gesù, which produced the divine Pergolese. From the Sant’ Onofrio and the Pietà dei Turchini schools, the other two having disappeared by the end of the Eighteenth Century, the present day College of Music opened due to the wishes of Murat, and it too was adorned with famous directors: Zingarelli, Donizetti, Mercadante, Rossini and Platania, right up to the present worthy continuation from ancient times, Francesco Cilèa.
The grandfather of Vincenzo Bellini studied at the Conservatory of
the Pietà, having as teacher and guide the celebrated Iommelli; as
a fruit of that teaching, he produced many works during his long life.
In Torricella a list of his works
is religiously preserved with care and it is worth repeating it here
in its entirety:
Citeriore meant "nearer to", as opposed to "farther
The Neapolitan conservatories enjoyed a considerable reputation throughout Europe as training grounds not only for young children to be trained in church music, but, eventually, as a feeder system into the world of commercial music and opera, once those areas opened up in the early 1600s. (The historic continuity of the conservatory in its modern sense cannot be traced farther back than the 16th century.)
Naples is where the term conservatorio was first used to mean 'music school'. Originally, however, a conservatorio was where they conserved young, unmarried women with children as well as orphans; thus, a 'conservatory' was a shelter or orphanage. There were so many orphans being trained in music in these church-run orphanages that the transfer of meaning came about rather naturally over time.
The Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loretto, at Naples, founded by Giovanni di Tappia in 1537, is the first to which a definite date can be assigned. Three other similar schools were afterwards established in the city, of which the Conservatorio di Sant Onofrio deserves special mention on account of the fame of its teachers.
These “schools of excellenece” primed Naples to become one of the most important centres of musical training in Europe. By the 1700s, Naples was nicknamed the "conservatory of Europe" and was home and workshop to composers such as Alessandro Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Niccolò Piccinni, Domenico Cimarosa, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, etc.
Under the short French rule of Murat in the early 1800s, the original four conservatories were consolidated into a single institution, which was relocated in 1826 to the premises of the ex-monastery, San Pietro a Maiella. The conservatory still bears the inscription "Royal Academy of Music" (Real Collegio di Musica) over the entrance, it was important because it admitted pupils of both sexes, the earlier conservatories had been exclusively for boys - and it is still today an important music school in Italy. It houses an impressive library of manuscripts pertaining to the lives and musical production of the composers who have lived and worked in Naples.
The Naples Music Conservatory at San Pietro a Maiella is right near Piazza Bellini and a long street, via San Sebastiano, known simply as the "music street" because every shop on it sells musical instruments. It's always a pleasure to walk by the conservatory and listen to the sounds of students practicing.
Naples was also the birthplace of the popular Neapolitan comic opera and the site of the San Carlo Theatre, built in 1737, one of the finest musical theaters in the world.
Murat was an officer in the French army, when Napoleon made him the King of Naples, but he deserted Napoleon in 1813 in the vain hope that Austria and Great Britain would recognize him. In 1815 he attempted unsuccessfully to make himself King of all Italy, but when he landed in Calabria in an attempt to gain the throne he was captured and shot.
Thus this Vincenzo spent his adolescence between Naples and Abruzzo, then in 1767, at the age of 23 years, he left his native land and transferred to far away Catania. It is still uncertain as to what reasons drove him to make this sudden and definitive resolution. But personal records and oral tradition amongst villagers attribute it to causes as varied as politics or even domestic problems.
Already before he left the Kingdom of Naples to sit on the throne of
Spain in 1759, Carlo III had tried to strengthen the bonds between the
provinces on this side of the Lighthousewith
those of the Island; in 1767 his son, Ferdinand IV, on freeing himself
from the Council of Regents, took up this same intention with even
greater zeal and amongst the many military and civilian personages
sent to cement this union, was also Vincenzo Bellini and at this point
all documentation with his family in Abruzzo ceased.
During the 1200s, the official title for southern Italy was "the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies", thus marking the distinction between Sicily on the hither side of the Straits from the Sicily beyond the Faro. The custom of calling the south of Italy Sicily went back to the time of the Byzantine governors, who, while the island was under Arab domination continued to be called governors of Sicily. The Normans therefore considered that there were two Sicilies, one held by the Byzantines, and one held by the Arabs.