The “Bel Canto” Viola: The Role of Alessandro Rolla in the Viola Catalog
AuthorLizama, Raphael David
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe music of Italian composer Alessandro Rolla (1757–1841) serves a vital role in the catalog of important viola repertoire. Nonetheless, his vast contributions are woefully neglected by the majority of modern viola players. Familiarity with Rolla’s music can help dispel the misconception that only a small pool of viola repertoire existed prior to the 20th century. As a violist and composer, Rolla championed the viola as a viable solo instrument on equal footing with the violin. Even more significant is the critical role he played as a musical leader in Milan during the pinnacle of the Bel Canto period. It is evident that his close connection to the world of Italian opera shaped his compositional style. It is because of this that Rolla’s music holds a special position in the viola catalog.Rolla’s mature style is best understood in the context with the Italian operatic idiom known as Bel Canto. Bel Canto translates simply to “beautiful singing,” but its true definition is more elusive and remains a topic of contention. The term Bel Canto has become heavily associated with vocal technique; however, it can be understood to have much broader implications as it relates to composition, performance practice, and overall aesthetics. When examining the origins and meaning of Bel Canto, it is crucial to recognize how the development of vocal and instrumental technique evolved simultaneously. The study of Rolla’s life and work grants an invaluable opportunity to illuminate this nebulous subject. The core of this research document will focus on several of Rolla’s compositions that incorporate versions of opera arias. Also, several of his original compositions will be analyzed through the lens of the Bel Canto tradition. Comparisons will be made between Rolla’s compositional elements and those of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini.
Degree ProgramGraduate College