“Ah, by Bacchus, with this aria I shall receive universal applause. People will say to me, “Bravo maestro!” Gaetano Donizetti.
Gaetano Donizetti was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy.
His best-known works are the operas L’elisir d’amore (1832), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and Don Pasquale (1843) (all in Italian) and the French operas La favorite and La fille du régiment (both from 1840).
Along with Vincenzo Bellini and Gioachino Rossini, he was a leading composer of bel canto opera.
Donizetti, a prolific composer, is best known for his operatic works, but he also wrote music in a number of other forms, including some church music, a number of string quartets, and some orchestral pieces.
Altogether, he composed about 75 operas, 16 symphonies, 19 string quartets, 193 songs, 45 duets, 3 oratorios, 28 cantatas, instrumental concertos, sonatas, and other chamber pieces.
Donizetti achieved some popular success in the 1820s (although critics were often unimpressed).
It was not until 1830 that he became well known internationally, when his Anna Bolena was premiered in Milan, and this brought him instant fame throughout Europe.
L’elisir d’amore, a comedy produced in 1832, came soon after, and is deemed to be one of the masterpieces of 19th-century opera buffa (as is his Don Pasquale, written for Paris in 1843).
Shortly after L’elisir d’amore, Donizetti composed Lucia di Lammermoor, based on The Bride of Lammermoor, the novel by Sir Walter Scott. This became his most famous opera, and one of the high points of the bel canto tradition, reaching a stature similar to that of Bellini’s Norma.
After the success of Lucrezia Borgia in 1833, his reputation was consolidated and Donizetti followed the paths of both Rossini and Bellini by visiting Paris, where his Marin Faliero suffered by comparison with Bellini’s I puritani.
He returned to Naples to produce his already-mentioned masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor and, as Donizetti’s fame grew, so did his engagements, as he was further offered commissions in both France and Italy.
In 1838, he moved to Paris after the Italian censor objected to the production of Poliuto on the grounds that such a sacred subject was inappropriate for the stage. There he wrote La fille du régiment, which became another success.
As a conductor, he led the premiere of Rossini’s Stabat Mater.
Donizetti’s wife, Virginia Vasselli, gave birth to three children, none of whom survived. Within a year of his parents’ deaths, on 30 July 1837 his wife died from cholera.
By 1843, Donizetti was exhibiting symptoms of syphilis and probable bipolar disorder. After being institutionalized in 1845, he was sent to Paris, where he could be cared for. After visits from friends, including Giuseppe Verdi, Donizetti was taken back to Bergamo, his hometown. After several years in the grip of insanity, he died in 1848 in the house of a noble family, the Scotti. Donizetti was buried in the cemetery of Valtesse but in the late 19th century his body was transferred to Bergamo’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore near the grave of his teacher Simon Mayr.
He was the younger brother of Giuseppe Donizetti, who had become, in 1828, Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the court of Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839).