29 November 1797 - 8 April 1848 (age 50)

Donizetti was one of the great masters of bel canto opera together with Rossini and Bellini.

He was prolific in output and dominated the opera scene in Italy between the death of Bellini and the rise of Verdi.




Brief biography


Portrait of Donizetti


Born: Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti, Bergamo (Lombardy, Italy)
Father: Andrea - pawnshop caretaker. Poor family with no musical background.
Mother: Domenica Nava - seamstress.
Siblings: 2 elder brothers and 3 sisters
Partners: Wife: Virginia Vasselli, (died after 10 years of marriage)
Children: Three, none of whom survived more than a few days.
Death: suffered from cerebro-spinal syphilis.
Grave: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo. (see findagave)



He had a very sad life. His wife died after only ten years of marriage and his three children all died very young in epidemics, tragedies from which they say he never recovered.
He was an incredibly fast worker - he could produce a three act opera (music and words) in ten days.
He was a kind hard working man who gave support and encouragement to fellow artists and composers.


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Style: Early Italian romantic. He, together with Rossini and Bellini, were the masters of the Italian opera style known as 'bel canto'.
Quantity: immense.

  • 75 operas
  • 16 symphonies
  • 19 string quartets
  • 193 songs
  • many other vocal works
  • and also many instrumental works - concertos, quartets, sonatas and chamber music

Best known works:

  • Lucia di Lammamoor
  • L'Elisir d'Amore
  • La Fille du Regiment
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Poliuto
  • Don Pasquale

- He owed a great deal to his first teacher and mentor Giovanni Simone Mayr, a Bavarian opera composer, director of Bergamo's maestro di cappella and founder of the 'Charitable Music School' which Donizetti was able to take advantage of thanks to a scholarship.a
- Other great infuences were Rossini and Bellini.
- Donizetti in turn influenced Verdi and Bizet among others.

Donizetti Quotes

“"My heyday is over, and another must take my place. The world wants something new. Others have ceded their places to us and we must cede ours to still others... I am more than happy to give mine to people of talent like Verdi.”"


A brief biography

Age 9: Got a scholarship to the Lezioni Caritatevoli school in Bergamo. He had excellent teachers including Simon Meyr, an important German opera composer and 3 years at the Liceo Filarmonico in Bologna with Padre Mattei, one of Rossini's teachers.
Age 20: Returned to Bergamo where his father wanted him to give music lessons which he didn't like, so he joined the army and was posted to Venice. While there his first opera to be staged was 'Enrico Comte di Borgogna'.
His next opera 'Zoraide de Granata' was so successful that he obtained a discharge from the army in order to be able to concentrate on composing.
Age 24 - 30: The Neapolitan impresario Domenico Barbaia spotted Donizetti and put him under contract to produce operas. He worked from Naples Rome and Milan.
Age 31: Marries Virginia.
Age 33: 'Anna Bolena' established him as an international
Age 39: Both parents die.
Age 40: His 29 year old wife Virginia dies of cholera.
Age 41: Moves to Paris. Remaining operas written in French.
Age 44: Moves to Vienna where he was appointed principal court conductor.
Age 45: Symptoms of syphilis and bipolar disorder.
Age 48: Stroke, paralysis and dementia. Commited to an asylum in Paris
Age 50: He was moved to his home town Bergamo where he soon dies.

Una Furtiva Lagrima -L'Elisir d'Amore
sung by Rolando Villazon

Anna Bolena

Lucia di Lammermoor - Mad Scene
Sumi Jo

La Fille du Regiment - Salut a la France

Lucrezia Borgia

Don Pasquale
Metropotan Opera NY

Links, sources, where to go for more information

- Answers.com accumulated content of various reference sites.

- The Donizetti Society aims to promote interest and understanding of his works

- Arizona Opera article

- Manitoba Opera atticle

- Teatro Donizetti official site of the Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo

- Donizetti Museum site of the Donizetti museum in Bergamo

- Italian Composers more profiles here at 52composers.com


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