The term Bel Canto refers to the Italian-originated vocal style that prevailed throughout most of Europe during the 18th century and early 19th centuries. This vocal style and technique was not restricted to beauty and evenness of tone, legato phrasing, and skill in executing highly florid passages, but also as a multifaceted manner of performance far beyond these confines.
The main features of the Bel Canto style were:
• Prosodic singing (use of accent and emphasis)
• Matching register and tonal quality of the voice to the emotional content of the words
• A highly articulated manner of phrasing based on the insertion of grammatical and rhetorical pauses
• A delivery varied by several types of legato and staccato
• A liberal application of more than one type of portamento
• The voice as the principal source of expression
• Frequent alteration of tempo through rhythmic rubato and the quickening and slowing of the overall time
• The introduction of a wide variety of graces and divisions into both arias and recitatives
• Gesture as a powerful tool for enhancing the effect of the vocal delivery
• Vibrato primarily reserved for heightening the expression of certain words and for gracing longer notes
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