Donizetti, (Domenico) Gaetano (Maria)
Donizetti, (Domenico) Gaetano (Maria)
Donizetti, (Domenico) Gaetano (Maria), famous Italian composer, brother of Giuseppe Donizetti;b. Bergamo, Nov. 29, 1797; d. there, April 1, 1848. His father was from a poor family of artisans who obtained the position of caretaker in the local pawnshop. At the age of nine, Gaetano entered the Lezioni Caritatevoli di Musica, a charity institution that served as the training school for the choristers of S. Maria Maggiore; he studied singing and harpsichord there, later studying harmony and counterpoint with J.S. Mayr. With the encouragement and assistance of Mayr, he enrolled in the Liceo Filarmonico Comunale in Bologna in 1815, where he studied counterpoint with Pilotti; later, he studied counterpoint and fugue with Padre Mattei. His first opera, II Pigmalione (1816), appears never to have been performed in his lifetime. He composed two more operas in quick succession, but they were not performed. Leaving the Liceo in 1817, he was determined to have an opera produced. His next work, Enrico di Borgogna, was performed in Venice in 1818, but it evoked little interest. He finally achieved popular success with his opera buffa II Falegname di Livonia, o Pietro il grade, czar delle Russie (Venice, Dec. 26,1819). In Dec. 1820 he was exempted from military service when a woman of means paid the sum necessary to secure his uninterrupted work at composition. His opera seria Zoraide de Granata (Rome, Jan. 28,1822) proved a major success. During the next nine years, Donizetti composed 25 operas, none of which remain in the active repertoire today; however, the great success of his L’Ajo neU’imbarazzo (Rome, Feb. 4,1824) brought him renown at the time. In 1825–26 he served as musical director of the Teatro Carolino in Palermo. From 1829 to 1838 he was musical director of the royal theaters in Naples. With Anna Bolena (Milan, Dec. 26, 1830), Donizetti established himself as a master of the Italian operatic theater. Composed for Pasta and Rubini, the opera was an overwhelming success. Within a few years it was produced in several major Italian theaters, and was also heard in London, Paris, Dresden, and other cities. His next enduring work was the charming comic opera L’elisir d’amove (Milan, May 12, 1832). The tragic Lucrezia Borgia (Milan, Dec. 26, 1833), although not entirely successful at its premiere, soon found acceptance and made the rounds of the major opera houses. In 1834 Donizetti was appointed prof. of counterpoint and composition at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella in Naples. His Maria Stuarda (Oct. 18,1834) was given its first performance as Buondelmonte in Naples after the Queen objected to details in the libretto. He then went to Paris, where his Marino Faliero had a successful premiere at the Theatre-Italien on March 12, 1835. Returning to Italy, he produced his tragic masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor (Naples, Sept. 26,1835). Upon the death of Zingarelli in 1837, Donizetti was named director pro tempore of the Conservatorio in Naples. On July 30, 1837, he suffered a grievous loss when his wife died following the 3rd stillbirth of a child after nine years of marriage. On Oct. 29, 1837, Roberto Devereux garnered acclaim at its first performance in Naples. In 1838 Donizetti resigned his positions at the Conservatorio when his post as director was not made a permanent appointment. When the censor’s veto prevented the production of Poliuto due to its sacred subject (it was written for Nourrit after Corneille’s Polyeucte), he decided to return to Paris. He produced the highly successful La Fille du regiment there on Feb. 11,1840. It was followed by Les Martyrs (April 10, 1840), a revision of the censored Poliuto, which proved successful. His La Favorite (Dec. 2, 1840) made little impression at its first performance, but it soon became one of his most popular operas. He spent 1841–42 in Italy, and then went to Vienna. His Linda di Chamounix received an enthusiastic reception at its premiere there on May 19, 1842. The Emperor appointed Donizetti Maestro di Cappella e di Camera e Compositore di Corte. In 1843 he once more went to Paris, where he brought out his great comic masterpiece Don Pasquale. With such famous singers as Grisi, Mario, Tamburini, and Lablache in the cast, its premiere on Jan. 3, 1843, was a triumph. He then returned to Vienna, where he conducted the successful premiere of Maria di Rohan on June 5, 1843. Back again in Paris, he produced Dom Sebastien (Nov. 11,1843). The audience approved the work enthusiastically, but the critics were not pleased. Considering the opera to be his masterpiece, Donizetti had to wait until the Vienna premiere (in German) of 1845 before the work was universally acclaimed. The last opera produced in his lifetime was Caterina Comoro (Naples, Jan. 12,1844). By this time Donizetti began to age quickly; in 1845 his mental and physical condition progressively deteriorated as the ravages of syphilis reduced him to the state of an insane invalid. In 1846 he was placed in a mental clinic at Ivry, just outside Paris; in 1847 he was released into the care of his nephew, and was taken to his birthplace to await his end. Donizetti was a prolific composer of operas whose fecundity of production was not always equaled by his inspiration or craftsmanship. Many of his operas are hampered by the poor librettos he was forced to use on so many occasions. Nevertheless, his genius is reflected in many of his operas. Indeed, his finest works serve as the major link in the development of Italian opera between the period of Rossini and that of Verdi. Such operas as Anna Bolena, L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Roberto Devereux, La Favorite, La Fille du regiment, and Don Pasquale continue to hold a place in the repertoire.
DRAMATIC Opera:! II Pigmalione, scena drammatica (1816; Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo, Oct. 13, 1960); L’ira d’Achille (1817; not perf.); L’Olimpiade (1817; not perf.); Enrico di Borgogna, opera semiseria (1818; Teatro San Luca, Venice, Nov. 14, 1818); Una follia (di Carnevale), farsa (1818; Teatro San Luca, Venice, Dec. 15, 1818); Piccioli Virtuosi ambulanti (also known as Piccoli Virtuosi di musica ambulanti), opera buffa (1819; Bergamo, 1819); // Falegname di Livonia, o Pietro il grande, czar delle Russie, opera buffa (1819; Teatro San Samuele, Venice, Dec. 26,1819); Le nozze in villa, opera buffa (1820; Teatro Vecchio, Mantua, 1820 or 1821); Zoraide di Granata, opera seria (1822; Teatro Argentina, Rome, Jan. 28,1822); La Zingara, opera seria (1822; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, May 12, 1822); La lettera anonima, farsa (1822; Teatro del Fondo, Naples, June 29, 1822); Chiara e Serafina, o I Pirati, opera semiseria (1822; Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Oct. 26, 1822); Alfredo il grande, opera seria (1823; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, July 2, 1823); // Il Fortunato inganno, opera buffa (1823; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, Sept. 3, 1823); L’Ajo nell’imbarazzo, o Don Gregorio, opera buffa (1823–24; Teatro Valle, Rome, Feb. 4,1824); Emilia di Liverpool (also known as Emilia or L’eremitaggio di Liverpool), opera semiseria (1824; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, July 28, 1824); Alahor di Granata, opera seria (1825; Teatro Carolino, Palermo, Jan. 7, 1826); // li castello degli invalidi, farsa (1825–26?; 1st perf. may have taken place at the Teatro Carolino, Palermo, 1826); Elvida, opera seria (1826; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, July 6, 1826); Gabriella di Vergy, opera seria (1826; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Nov. 22, 1869; 2nd version, 1838?; Whitla Hall, Belfast, Nov. 7, 1978); La bella prigioniera, farsa (1826; not perf.); Olivo e Pasquale, opera buffa (1826; Teatro Valle, Rome, Jan. 7, 1827); Otto Mesi in due ore, ossia Gli Esiliati in Siberia, opera romantica (1827; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, May 13, 1827); // Borgomastro di Saardam, opera buffa (1827; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, Aug. 19, 1827); Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, farsa (1827; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, Nov. 21, 1827); L’Esule di Roma, ossia II Proscritto (also known as Settimio il proscritto), opera seria (1827; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Jan. 1, 1828); Alina, regina di Golconda (also known as La Regina di Golconda), opera buffa (1828; Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, May 12, 1828); Gianni di Calais, opera semiseria (1828; Teatro del Fondo, Naples, Aug. 2, 1828); II Giovedi grasso, o II nuovo Pourceaugnac, farsa (1828; Teatro del Fondo, Naples, 1828); // Paria, opera seria (1828; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Jan. 12,1829); Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth (also known as // castello di Kenilivorth), opera seria (1829; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, July 6, 1829); I Pazzi per progetto, farsa (1830; Teatro del Fondo, Naples, Feb. 7, 1830); // diluvio universale, azione tragico-sacra (1830; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Feb. 28, 1830); Imelda de’ Lambertazzi, opera seria (1830; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Aug. 23, 1830); Anna Bolena, opera seria (1830; Teatro Carcano, Milan, Dec. 26, 1830); Francesca di Foix, opera semiseria (1831; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, May 30, 1831); La Romanziera e I’uomo nero, opera buffa (1831; Teatro del Fondo, Naples, June 18, 1831); Gianni di Parigi, opera comica (1831; Teatro alia Scala, Milan, Sept. 10, 1839); Fausta, opera seria (1831; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Jan. 12, 1832); Ugo, conte di Parigi, opera seria (1832; Teatro alia Scala, Milan, March 13, 1832); L’elisir d’amore, opera comica (1832; Teatro della Canobbiana, Milan, May 12, 1832); Sanaa di Castiglia, opera seria (1832; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Nov. 4,1832); // Furioso all’isola di San Domingo, opera semiseria (1832; Teatro Valle, Rome, Jan. 2, 1833); Parisina, opera seria (1833; Teatro della Pergola, Florence, March 17, 1833), Torquato Tasso (also known as Sordello il trovatore or Sordello), opera seria (1833; Teatro Valle, Rome, Sept. 9, 1833); Lucrezia Borgia, opera seria (1833; Teatro alia Scala, Milan, Dec. 26, 1833); Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, opera seria (1834; Teatro della Pergola, Florence, Feb. 27, 1834); Maria Stuarda, opera seria (1834; 1st perf. as Buondelmonte at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Oct. 18, 1834; 1st perf. as Maria Stuarda at the Teatro alia Scala, Milan, Dec. 30, 1835); Gemma di Vergy, opera seria (1834; Teatro alia Scala, Milan, Dec. 26, 1834); Adelaide, opera comica (1834?; not completed); Marino (or Marin) Faliero, opera seria (1835; TheatreItalien, Paris, March 12, 1835); Lucia di Lammermoor, opera seria (1835; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Sept. 26, 1835); Belisario, opera seria (1835–36; Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Feb. 4, 1836); II campanello (di notte or dello speziale), farsa (1836; Teatro Nuovo, Naples, June 1, 1836); Betty (or Bettly), ossia La Capanna svizzera, opera giocosa (1836; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Aug. 24, 1836); L’assedio di Calais, opera seria (1836; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Nov. 19, 1836); Pia de’ Tolomei, opera seria (1836–37; Teatro Apollo, Venice, Feb. 18,1837); Roberto Devereux, ossia II Conte di Essex, opera seria (1837; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Oct. 29,1837); Maria di Rudenz, opera seria (1837; Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Jan. 30,1838); Poliuto, opera seria, 1839; 1st perf. as Les Martyrs at the Opera, Paris, April 10, 1840; 1st perf. as Poliuto at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Nov. 30, 1848); L’Ange de Nisida (incomplete opera; transformed into La Favorite ); Le Due d’Albe (1839 and later; not completed; finished by Matteo Salvi and tr. into Italian by Angelo Zanardini as // Duca d’Alba, Teatro Apollo, Rome, March 22, 1882); La Fille du regiment, opera- comique (1839–0; Opéra-Comique, Paris, Feb. 11, 1840); Les Martyrs, grand opera (1840; rev. version of Poliuto ; Opera, Paris, April 10, 1840); La Favorite, grand opera (1840; rev. version of L’Ange de Nisida ; Opera, Paris, Dec. 2, 1840); Adelia, o La Figlia dell’arciere, opera seria (1840–41; Teatro Apollo, Rome, Feb. 11,1841); Rita, ou Le Mari battu (also known as Deux hommes et une femme), opera-comique (1841; Opera-Comique, Paris, May 7, 1860); Maria Padilla, opera seria (1841; Teatro alia Scala, Milan, Dec. 26,1841); Linda di Chamounix, opera semiseria (1842; Karnthnertortheater, Vienna, May 19, 1842); Don Pasquale, opera buffa (1842; Theatre-Italien, Paris, Jan. 3, 1843); Maria di Rohan, opera seria (1843; Karnthnertortheater, Vienna, June 5, 1843); Dom Sebastien, roi de Portugal, grand opera (1843; Opera, Paris, Nov. 11,1843); Caterina Cornaro, opera seria (1842–43; Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Jan. 12, 1844). OTHER: His other vocal music includes 28 cantatas, several masses, vespers, Psalms, motets, many songs, ariettas, duets, and conzonets. His instrumental music includes many sinfonias, marches, 19 string quartets, and quintets.
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—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire