An Introduction to the Bel Canto Technique

As a banker and business attorney, Joseph Solfanelli has provided legal counsel to clients ranging from a small community bank to the country’s largest anthracite coal company. In his free time, attorney Joseph Solfanelli enjoys attending live classical music and opera performances.

Most often translated from the Italian as “beautiful singing,” the bel canto technique is one of opera’s most beloved traditions. The technique developed from an aesthetic that prioritized a smooth sound throughout the vocal range as well as the ability of a singer to embellish a melodic line with runs, trills, and other auditory accessories. Early bel canto singers trained in vocal agility and lightness of tone, particularly in the upper registers.

Bel canto remained the ideal operatic technique into the 19th century, when larger orchestras and grander opera houses inspired grander works. Lengthy melodies required the skill of subtle breathing, while dramatic intensity asked bel canto singers to adopt a powerful sound when needed. Today’s bel canto singers must be able to perform works in both styles, from the floridly embellished to the dark and intense. In showcasing a complex and artful melody, the vocalist shows audiences how “beautiful singing” and beautiful music become two parts of a whole.

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