Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
One of the most prolific Italian composers of opera, at eight years old Donizetti entered Lezioni Caritatevoli di Musica, a music school in Bergamo (region of Lombardia) started by composer Simone Mayr who was maestro di cappella of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1815, Donizetti was sent to Bologna to study under Stanislao Mattei at the Liceo Filarmonico. Mattei was a pupil of Giovanni Battista Martini, who was famous for his musical accomplishments throughout Europe and tutor to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
After one year at Liceo Filarmonico, Donizetti wrote his first opera, Il Pigmalione (which did not première until 1960 at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo). His first staged opera was the following year, but it was the 1822 Rome debut of Zoraïda di Granata that first earned him public recognition. He followed with a series of operas, among them Lucia di Lammermoor, Anna Bolena, and L'elisir d'amore. Donizetti moved to Paris in 1838, staying until 1847 when he returned to Bergamo. While in Paris he composed the well-known Don Pasquale, and his five-act Dom Sébastien. He died in 1848 and his remains – and those of his mentor Simone Mayr – are in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Donizetti composed many of the major roles in his operas for leading singers of that time, writing his music to be sung bel canto, a style that emphasizes melodic, fluid tones.
-Written by Janice Mancuso