For other people named Donizetti, see Donizetti (surname).

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (Italian pronunciation: [doˈmeːniko ɡaeˈtaːno maˈria donidˈdzetti]; born 29 November 1797 – died 8 April 1848) was an Italian composer from Bergamo, Lombardy. His best-known works are the operas L'elisir d'amore (1832), Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and Don Pasquale (1843) (all in Italian) and the French operas La favorite and La fille du régiment (both from 1840). Along with Vincenzo Bellini and Gioachino Rossini, he was a leading composer of bel canto opera.


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 with no tradition of music, his father being the caretaker of the town pawnshop. Nevertheless, Donizetti received some musical instruction from Simon Mayr, a German composer of internationally successful operas who had become maestro di cappella at Bergamo's principal church in 1802 and who founded the Lezioni Caritatevoli school in Bergamo.

Donizetti was not especially successful as a choirboy, but in 1806 he was one of the first pupils to be enrolled at the Lezioni Caritatevoli through a full scholarship. He received detailed training in the arts of fugue and counterpoint, and it was here that he launched his operatic career.

Career as a composer

After some minor compositions under the commission of Paolo Zancla, Donizetti wrote his ninth opera, Zoraida di Granata. This work impressed Domenico Barbaia, a prominent theatre manager, and Donizetti was offered a contract to compose in Naples. Writing in Rome and Milan in addition to Naples, Donizetti achieved some popular success in the 1820s (although critics were often unimpressed). It was not until 1830 that he became well known internationally, when his Anna Bolena was premiered in Milan, and this brought him instant fame throughout Europe.

L'elisir d'amore, a comedy produced in 1832, came soon after, and is deemed to be one of the masterpieces of 19th-century opera buffa (as is his Don Pasquale, written for Paris in 1843). Shortly after L'elisir d'amore, Donizetti composed Lucia di Lammermoor, based on The Bride of Lammermoor, the novel by Sir Walter Scott. This became his most famous opera, and one of the high points of the bel canto tradition, reaching a stature similar to that of Bellini's Norma.

After the success of Lucrezia Borgia in 1833, his reputation was consolidated and Donizetti followed the paths of both Rossini and Bellini by visiting Paris, where his Marin Faliero suffered by comparison with Bellini's I puritani. He returned to Naples to produce his already-mentioned masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor and, as Donizetti's fame grew, so did his engagements, as he was further offered commissions in both France and Italy. In 1838, he moved to Paris after the Italian censor objected to the production of Poliuto on the grounds that such a sacred subject was inappropriate for the stage. There he wrote La fille du régiment, which became another success.

As a conductor, he led the premiere of Rossini's Stabat Mater.

Donizetti's wife, Virginia Vasselli, gave birth to three children, none of whom survived. Within a year of his parents' deaths, on 30 July 1837 his wife died from cholera. By 1843, Donizetti was exhibiting symptoms of syphilis and probable bipolar disorder. After being institutionalized in 1845, he was sent to Paris, where he could be cared for. After visits from friends, including Giuseppe Verdi, Donizetti was taken back to Bergamo, his hometown. After several years in the grip of insanity, he died in 1848 in the house of a noble family, the Scotti. Donizetti was buried in the cemetery of Valtesse but in the late 19th century his body was transferred to Bergamo's Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore near the grave of his teacher Simon Mayr.

He was the younger brother of Giuseppe Donizetti, who had become, in 1828, Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the court of Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839).

Donizetti's compositions

Donizetti, a prolific composer, is best known for his operatic works, but he also wrote music in a number of other forms, including some church music, a number of string quartets, and some orchestral pieces. Altogether, he composed about 75 operas, 16 symphonies, 19 string quartets, 193 songs, 45 duets, 3 oratorios, 28 cantatas, instrumental concertos, sonatas, and other chamber pieces.


See List of operas by Donizetti

Choral works

Orchestral works


Chamber works

Piano works


"Una furtiva lagrima"
File:Enrico Caruso, L'elisir d'amore, Una furtiva lagrima.ogg

File:Prelude to Lucia di Lammermoor.ogg

Le beau vingt-et-unième
File:Donizetti - Le beau vingt-et-unième (extrait de la Fille du régiment) - Atelier Vocal des Herbiers ( petit ensemble Amarante) - juin 2000.ogg
from Donizetti's opera La fille du régiment, performed by Atelier Vocal des Herbiers

Problems playing these files? See media help.


  • "Ah, by Bacchus, with this aria I shall receive universal applause. People will say to me, “Bravo maestro!”
I, in a very modest manner, shall walk about with bowed head; I’ll have rave reviews...I can become immortal...
My mind is vast, my genius swift...
And at composing, a thunderbolt am I."
(From a poem composed by 14-year-old Gaetano Donizetti)
  • "Donizetti, when asked which of his own operas he thought the best, spontaneously replied, 'How can I say which? A father always has a preference for a crippled child, and I have so many.'" [1]




  • Allitt, John Stewart, Gaetano Donizetti – Pensiero, musica, opere scelte, Milano: Edizione Villadiseriane, 2003
  • Allitt, John Stewart, Donizetti – in the light of romanticism and the teaching of Johann Simon Mayr, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element Books, 1991. Also see Allitt's website
  • Ashbrook, William: Donizetti and his Operas, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press 1982. Ashbrook also wrote an earlier life entitled Donizetti in 1965.
  • Ashbrook, William (with John Black); Julian Budden (1998), "Gaetano Donizetti" in Stanley Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
  • Bini, Annalisa and Jeremy Commons, Le prime rappresentazioni delle opere di Donizetti nella stampa coeva, Milan: Skira, 1997
  • Black, John, Donizetti's Operas in Naples 1822–1848, London: The Donizetti Society, 1982
  • Cassaro, James P., Gaetano Donizetti – A Guide to Research, New York: Garland Publishing. 2000
  • Donati-Petténi, Giuliano, Donizetti, Milano: Fratelli Treves Editori, 1930 (In Italian)
  • Gossett, Philip, "Anna Bolena" and the Artistic Maturity of Gaetano Donizetti, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985
  • Kantner, Leopold M (Ed.), Donizetti in Wien, papers from a symposium in various languages (ISBN 3-7069-0006-8 / ISSN 156,00-8921). Published by Primo Ottocento, available from Edition Praesens.
  • Keller, Marcello Sorce, "Gaetano Donizetti: un bergamasco compositore di canzoni napoletane", Studi Donizettiani, III(1978), 100- 107.
  • Keller, Marcello Sorce, "Io te voglio bene assaje: a Famous Neapolitan Song Traditionally Attributed to Gaetano Donizetti", The Music Review, XLV (1984), no. 3- 4, 251- 264. Also published as: Io te voglio bene assaje: una famosa canzone napoletana tradizionalmente attribuita a Gaetano Donizetti, La Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana, 1985, no. 4, 642- 653.
  • Minden, Pieter (Ed.): Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848): Scarsa Mercè Saranno. Duett für Alt und Tenor mit Klavierbegleitung [Partitur]. Mit dem Faksimile des Autographs von 1815. Tübingen : Noûs-Verlag, 1999. - 18 pp., [13] fol.; ISBN 3-924249-25-3. [Caesar vs. Cleopatra.]
  • Osborne, Charles, (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
  • Sadie, Stanley (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Volume 7, London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2001, pp. 761–796. The 1980 edition article, by William Ashbrook and Julian Budden, was also reprinted in The New Grove Masters of Italian Opera, London: Papermac, 1984, pp. 93–154.
  • Saracino, Egidio (Ed.), Tutti I libretti di Donizetti, Garzanti Editore, 1993.
  • Weinstock, Herbert, Donizetti and the World of Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, New York: Random House, 1963.
  • Zavadini, Guuido, Donizetti: Vita – Musiche- Epistolario, Bergamo, 1948

External links

  • Donizetti Society website
  • Donizetti works at Casa Ricordi
  • List of Donizetti operas at
  • Donizetti article on Manitoba Opera website
  • Donizetti biography on Arizona Opera website
  • 2 Donizetti libretti on
Sheet music
  • University of California, Santa Barbara Library.

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