Born in Catania, Sicily, Italy, Bellini was a child prodigy and legend has it he could sing an air of Firoavanti at eighteen months, began studying music theory at two, the piano at three, and by the age of five could play well. His first composition dates from his sixth year. Regardless, of the veracity of these claims, it is certain that Bellini grew up in a musicial household and that a career as a musician was never in doubt.
Bellini died in Puteaux, near Paris, and was buried next to Chopin in Pere Lachaise.
Bellini is best known for his opera Norma, the title role of which is considered the most difficult role in the soprano repertoire. During the 20th century, only a small number of singers were able to assay it with success: Rosa Ponselle in the early 1920s, later Joan Sutherland in the 1950s and 1960s. Maria Callas was the famous Norma of the postwar period; she performed it many times and recorded it twice.