Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (
Donizetti was born in
Over the course of his career, Donizetti wrote almost 70 operas. An offer in 1822 from
Before 1830, success came primarily with his
Donizetti found himself increasingly chafing against the censorship limitations which existed in Italy (and especially in Naples). From about 1836, he became interested in working in Paris, where he saw much greater freedom to choose subject matter, in addition to receiving larger fees and greater prestige. Starting in 1838 with an offer from the Paris Opéra for two new works, he spent a considerable part of the following ten years in that city, and set several operas to French texts as well as overseeing staging of his Italian works. The first opera was a French version of the then-unperformed
As the 1840s progressed, Donizetti moved regularly between Naples, Rome, Paris, and Vienna, continuing to compose and stage his own operas as well as those of other composers. But from around 1843, severe illness began to take hold and to limit his activities. Eventually, by early 1846 he was obliged to be confined to an institution for the mentally ill and, by late 1847, friends had him moved back to Bergamo, where he died in April 1848.
The youngest of three sons, Donizetti was born in 1797 in Bergamo's Borgo Canale quarter, located just outside the city walls. His family was very poor and had no tradition of music, his father Andrea being the caretaker of the town pawnshop. Simone Mayr, a German composer of internationally successful operas, had become
While not especially successful as a choirboy during the first three trial months of 1807 (there being some concern about a difetto di gola, a throat defect), Mayr was soon reporting that Gaetano "surpasses all the others in musical progress" and he was able to persuade the authorities that the young boy's talents were worthy of keeping him in the school. He remained there for nine years, until 1815.
However, as Donizetti scholar
The piece was performed on 13 September 1811 and included the composer character stating the following:
In reply to the chiding which comes from the other four characters in the piece after the "little composer" 's boasts, in the drama the "composer" responds with:
The performance also included a waltz which Donizetti played and for which he received credit in the libretto. In singing this piece, all five young men were given opportunities to show off their musical knowledge and talent.
The following two years were somewhat precarious for the young Donizetti: the 16-year-old created quite a reputation for what he did do—which is regularly to fail to attend classes—and also for what he did instead, which as to make something of a spectacle of himself in the town.
However, in spite of all this, Mayr not only persuaded Gaetano's parents to allow him to continue studies, but also secured funding from the Congregazione di Carità in Bergamo for two years of scholarships. In addition, he provided the young musician with letters of recommendation to both the publisher
In Bologna, he would justify the faith which Mayr had placed in him. Author John Stewart Allitt describes his 1816 "initial exercises in operatic style", the opera Il pigmalione, as well as his composition of portions of Olympiade and L'ira d'Achille in 1817, as no more than "suggest[ing] the work of a student". Encouraged by Mayr to return to Bergamo in 1817, he began his "quartet years" as well as composing piano pieces and, most likely, being a performing member of quartets where he would have also heard music of other composers. In addition, he began seeking employment.