Born on November 29, 1797, Domenico Gaetano Donizetti was
the youngest of three sons born into a family of no musical aspirations.
Nonetheless, he received some musical instruction from Simon Mayr, a successful
German opera composer who had become maestro
di cappella at the principal church in Donizetti's hometown. Though
Donizetti was an unpromising choirboy, he was able to secure a full scholarship
to Mayr's newly formed Lezioni Caritatevoli school where he trained as a
composer until 1814. His works from these formative years include chamber
operas, religious works and chamber music.
Donizetti's first substantial success as a composer of opera
came with Zoraida di Granata, which
drew the attention of Domenico Barbaia, a prominent theatre manager. Working in
Naples, Rome and Milan, Donizetti enjoyed popular success, though rarely won
critics to his side, through the 1820s yet his fame remained localized.
However, the successful production of Anna
Bolena in Milan suddenly put Donizetti in the international spotlight.
Other masterpieces came soon afterwards including: L'elisir d'amore, recognized as one of the finest examples of 19th
century opera buffa; and Lucia di Lammermoor, based on a novel by
Sir Walter Scott and equal in stature to Bellini's Norma.
Following in the footsteps of Rossini, Donizetti left
Naples, after being passed over for the directorship of the Naples
Conservatory, and went to Paris. There he shifted from Italian opera to French opera
and crafted such popular operas as La
fille du Régiment and La favorite
with the apparent ease of a Frenchman. By 1843, Donizetti began to exhibit the
symptoms of syphilis and possibly bipolar disorder. He was institutionalized in
1845 but his hold on reality gradually slipped away. He passed away on April 8,
Today, Donizetti, standing alongside Gioacchino Rossini and
Vincenzo Bellini, is considered a master of the bel canto period of opera. A popular opera
composer, his stage works looked forward to those of Giuseppe Verdi.
Copyright 2008-2010 Classical Connect, LLC