Gaetano Donizetti In-depth Biography
Gaetano Donizetti} was among the most important composers of bel canto} opera in both Italian and French in the first half of the nineteenth Century. Many of Donizetti}'s more than 60 operas are still part of the modern repertoire and continue to challenge singers for their musical and technical demands. Donizetti} stands stylistically between Rossini} and Verdi}; his scenes are usually more expanded in structure than those of Rossini}, but he never blurred the lines between set pieces} and recitative as Verdi} did in his middle-period and late works. Often compared to his contemporary, Bellini}, Donizetti} produced a wider variety of operas and showed a greater stylistic flexibility, even if he never quite achieved the sheer beauty of Bellini}'s greatest works.
Donizetti} was educated in Bergamo, the town of his birth, studying with the opera composer Simon Mayr} from 1806 to 1814. His youthful works include chamber operas, religious works, and some chamber music. Donizetti}'s first opera of note was La Zingara}, which was premiered in Naples in 1822. He continued to work in Naples throughout the 1820's and 1830's, where he was active as both a conductor and composer.
In 1830, Donizetti} finally achieved international fame with his opera Anna Bolena}; notable for its expressive music and more extended scenes, it established Donizetti} as one of the leading contemporary opera composers. The comic opera L'elisir d'amore} (1832) and the tragic Lucrezia Borgia} (1833) came shortly after. Donizetti}'s next work was Maria Stuarda}, followed the same year by Lucia di Lammermoor} (1835), which became an internationally recognized masterpiece. The Elizabethan tragedy Roberto Devereux} (1837) completed his trilogy of operas that chronicle the English court from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I.
Donizetti}'s operas from the late 1830s were unable to match the success of Lucia}, and when Donizetti} was passed over for the directorship of the Naples Conservatory in 1840, he moved to Paris. There he composed the opera comique} La fille du Régiment} (1840), which was celebrated immediately for its charm and virtuosity. Later that year he completed La favorite} (1840), another major contribution to the French repertoire. In 1842 Donizetti} was appointed Kapellmeister of the Austrian court in Vienna, but retained his association with Paris.
Among Donizetti}'s last operas are Maria di Rohan} (1843), an important historic opera, and his French tragedy Dom Sébastian} (1843). Caterina Cornaro} (1843) is also one of his finest works for its strong dramatic content. These late operas, although rarely performed, are serious works that set the standard for Verdi}. ~ Steven Coburn, All Music Guide