Publication Date

Spring 4-25-2017


School of Music


Music: Vocal


Opera, Mad Scenes, Bel Canto, Donizetti, Bellini, Romantic, Soprano, Coloratura, Lucia, Anna Bolena, I Puritani, Scenes, Drama, Melimas, Ornamentation, Virtuosity, Stage, Analysis


Acting | Composition | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Music | Music Performance | Music Practice | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Performance Studies


This thesis will explore the musical innovations in the mad scenes of the bel canto composers in the 1800s. It will analyze Gaetano Donizetti’s mad scenes in Anna Bolena (1830) and Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and Vincezzo Bellini’s mad scenes in I Puritani (1835) to discover how each composer expresses madness through the high and virtuosic voice of the coloratura soprano. The subject of madness is not a new idea in opera. However, the mad scenes of Donizetti and Bellini are the most successful and are often performed in opera houses around the world. Specific attention is given to the vocal melodies and passages of coloratura which are used to express the various emotions of the character in the midst of her madness. Between 1830 and 1835, the madness of the characters becomes increasingly extreme, culminating in the shocking and thrilling moment in Lucia di Lammermoor when Lucia appears on the stage in a blood stained nightgown. She has gone insane and has murdered her husband. Through the musical genius of Donizetti and Bellini and the vocal prowess of great impresarios, some of the greatest meltdowns of all time are played out on the operatic stage.