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Donizetti, Gaetano

Donizetti, Gaetano (b Bergamo, 1797; d Bergamo, 1848). It. composer, principally of operas. Pupil of Mayr at Bergamo and of Padre Mattei at Bologna. His Enrico di Borgogna was prod. Venice, 1818, and Zoraida di Granata was a success in Rome in 1822. In the next 8 years he wrote nearly 30 operas which were perf. throughout It. His first int. success was with Anna Bolena (1830), and this was followed by the comedy L'Elisir d'Amore (1832), and by his masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor (1835). For Paris, 1840, he comp. the light-hearted La Fille du Régiment and the large-scale La Favorite. His last success was also in Paris, with Don Pasquale in 1843. Donizetti was prof. of counterpoint at Naples Cons. 1835–7, becoming dir. in 1837. He became paralysed and mentally unbalanced as a result of syphilis in 1844.

Donizetti's ability to write at great speed has prejudiced attitudes to the quality of his work. He wrote specifically for a generation of great singers such as Grisi, Mario, Lablache, and Tamburini. However, although he catered for their ability and agility, the tendency to underrate the melodic and dramatic content of his operas has only recently been corrected by a more discriminating willingness to recognize Donizetti's brilliance as a rival in comic opera to Rossini; and to acknowledge the debt, in the form of recognizable borrowings, owed to him by Verdi, who clearly appreciated his dramatic mastery. Recently several of Donizetti's lesser-known operas have been revived and found to have unsuspected merit. He also wrote church mus., 18 str. qts., and some orch. works. A list of his operas follows:11 pigmalione (1816); L'ira d'Achille (1817); Enrico di Borgogna; Una follia (both 1818); Il falegname di Livonia; Le nozze in villa (both 1819); Zoraide di Granata; La zingara; La lettera anonima; Chiara e Serafina (all 1822); Il fortunato inganno; Alfredo il Grande (both 1823); L'ajo nell'imbarazzo; Emilia di Liverpool (both 1824); Alahor in Granata; Gabriella di Vergy (2nd version 1838); Elvida (all 1826); Olivo e Pasquale; Il borgomastro di Saardam; Le convenienze teatrali (2nd version, Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, 1831), Otto mesi in due ore (all 1827); Alina, regina di Golconda; Gianni di Calais; L'esule di Roma (all 1828); Il Giovedì Grasso; Il Paria; Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth (all 1829); Il diluvio universale; I pazzi per progetto; Imelda de' Lambertazzi; Anna Bolena (all 1830); Gianni di Parigi; La Romanziera e l'uomo nero; Francesca di Foix (all 1831); Fausta; Ugo, conte di Parigi; L'elisir d'amore; Sancia di Castiglia (all 1832); Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo; Parisina; Torquato Tasso; Lucrezia Borgia (all 1833); Rosmonda d'Inghilterra; Gemma di Vergy (both 1834); Marino Faliero; Lucia di Lammermoor; Maria Stuarda (all 1835); Belisario; Il campanello di notte; L'assedio di Calais; Betly (all 1836); Roberto Devereux; Pia de' Tolomei (both 1837); Poliuto (2nd version, Les martyrs, 1840); Maria di Rudenz; Elisabetta di Siberia (all 1838); Le Duc d'Albe (incomplete, 1839); La Fille du régiment; La Favorite (rev. and expansion of L'ange de Nisida of 1839) (both 1840); Adelia, o La Figlia dell'arciere; Rita, ou le mari battu; Maria Padilla (all 1841); Linda di Chamounix; Caterina Cornaro (both 1842); Don Pasquale; Maria di Rohan; Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal (all 1843).

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Gaetano Donizetti

Gaetano Donizetti

The Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) was one of the first composers of the romantic movement in Italy.

Gaetano Donizetti was born in Bergamo on Nov. 29, 1797. He received his first instruction in music from an uncle, but the beginning of his formation as a composer came in 1806, when he was accepted as a free student in the Lezione Caritatevoli, a school supported by the church of S. Maria Maggiore for the training of musicians and choristers for its services. The director was Simon Mayr, a German who had settled in Bergamo in 1805. Although not known today, his music was held in high esteem in his lifetime. Mayr's influence seems to have been decisive. He kept young Donizetti in the school although his voice was not of the necessary quality, even writing works for student performances in which these vocal defects could be avoided.

Following this training, Donizetti went to Bologna in 1815 to study with Padre Mattei, a student of Padre Martini and a teacher of Gioacchino Rossini. Mayr gave Donizetti financial support as well as letters of introduction. Donizetti's first publication, a set of variations on a theme by Mayr, appeared in 1815.

Donizetti's first three operas date from 1816 and 1817 and were not performed during his lifetime. His first opera to be performed was Enrico di Borgogna, given in Venice in 1818. From this time until 1844 he produced operas of all types at a fantastic pace. In 1827 he agreed to compose 12 operas for Venice within a 3-year period. This speed in production shows in many works that perfunctorily filled the established forms of the day. His works all allow the singer ample opportunity for display with cadenzas and brilliant coloratura writing. Many of his librettos deal with violent passions that are not always turned to best dramatic effect. However, works like L'elisir d'amore (1832), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), La Fille du régiment (1840), and Don Pasquale (1843) have gained a place in the repertory for themselves and an important historical position for their composer.

Although now known primarily for his operas, Donizetti produced a large number of compositions in other genres. In addition to 71 operas, he composed cantatas, sacred works, symphonies, string quartets and quintets, and numerous works for piano solo, voice and piano, and piano and other instruments.

Donizetti's fame quickly spread throughout Italy; he went to Paris, where he wrote five operas, and to Vienna, where he became principal court conductor in 1842. His last years, 1844-1848, were spent in rather severe circumstances because of the progressive deterioration of his health, both physical and mental.

Further Reading

Two biographies of Donizetti are Herbert Weinstock, Donizetti and the World of Opera (1963), and William Ashbrook, Donizetti (1965), both containing numerous documents, lists of works, and librettos. Donizetti's place in early-19th-century music is discussed in Alfred Einstein, Music in the Romantic Era (1947), and Donald J. Grout, A Short History of Opera (2 vols., 1947; 2d ed. 1965). □

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Donizetti, Gaetano

Gaetano Donizetti (gītä´nō dōnēdzĕt´tē), 1797–1848, Italian composer. He studied music in Bergamo and Bologna and achieved success with his first opera, Enrico di Borgogna (1818). His early work was influenced by Rossini, but he later developed his own pleasantly melodic, often sentimental, style. Most popular of his more than 60 operas are Lucrezia Borgia (1833), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and Linda di Chamounix (1842), all serious operas; La Fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment, 1840), a French opéra comique; and L'Elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love, 1832) and Don Pasquale (1843), outstanding examples of opéra buffa. He also wrote songs, several symphonies, chamber music, oratorios, cantatas, and church music. In 1845 he became paralyzed, and he never composed again.

See studies by A. Weinstock (1964) and W. Ashbrooke (1965).

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Donizetti, Gaetano

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797–1848) Italian composer. He wrote 75 comic and serious operas. Initially influenced by Gioacchino Rossini, he formed his own melodic style with rich harmonies and orchestration. Operas include L'Elisir d'Amore (1832), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), Roberto Devereux (1837), La Fille du Régiment (1840), and Don Pasquale (1843).

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