Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Smart, Mary Ann. "In Praise of Convention: Formula and Experiment in Bellini's Self-Borrowings." Journal of the American Musicological Society 53 (Spring 2000): 25-68.

Vincenzo Bellini was once thought by the scholarly community to be immune from practices of self-borrowing, but evidence shows that he reworked material as much as Handel and Rossini. In Bellini's time, self-borrowing was deemed dishonest and unprofessional, and the critics and audiences were very aware of his self-borrowings. He reworked many passages from his earlier operas (before 1828) into his later operas, totaling twenty-five recycled melodies. Most of these melodic reworkings reduce the motivic material to make it more economical and declamatory. The reworkings also share with the original a formal function, poetic meter and content, and dramatic situation, although in one instance (the 1829 Zaira and the 1830 I Capuleti e i Montecchi) Bellini set a once happy cavatina into a much darker expressive context. Even unconscious borrowings, like between Il pirata and I puritani, have dramatic similarities, although they do not share formal function. All of this evidence shows that even though nineteenth-century opera is by its very nature conventional and thus often dismissed as musically uninteresting, these conventions are often instances of self-borrowing, which can be of more analytical interest.

Works: Bellini: Il pirata (25-27, 37-43), La sonnambula (28-29, 31), Norma (31, 37), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (32, 47-52), Zaira (37), La straniera (43-47), I puritani (53-66).

Sources: Bellini: Ernani (28, 31), Adelson e Salvini (32, 37-47), Bianca e Fernando (32, 37), Zaira (32, 47-52), Beatrice di Tenda (32-36), Norma (32-36), Il pirata (53-66).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Mark Chilla

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