Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (November 29 ,1797 –April 8, 1848) was an Italian composer who was born in 1797 at the Borgo Canale quarter of Bergamo, Lombardy, located just outside the city walls, the youngest of three sons. The family was very poor with no tradition of music. His father was 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. Though not especially successful as a choirboy, Donizetti was in 1806 he was one of the first pupils to be enrolled at the Lezioni Caritatevoli school, founded by Mayr, in Bergamo 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.
After some minor compositions under the commission of Paolo Zancla, Donizetti wrote his opera, Zoraida di Granata which 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, but was not well known internationally until 1830, when his Anna Bolena was premiered in Milan. He almost instantly became famous throughout Europe. L’elisir d’amore, a comedy produced in 1832, came soon after, and is deemed one of the masterpieces of 19th-century opera buffa. Shortly aftewards, Donizetti composed Lucia di Lammermoor, based on the Sir Walter Scott novel The Bride of Lammermoor. It became his most famous opera, and one of the high points of the bel canto tradition.
After the success of Lucrezia Borgia (1833) consolidated his reputation, Donizetti followed the paths of both Rossini and Bellini by visiting Paris, but his opera Marin Faliero suffered and he returned to Naples. As Donizetti’s fame grew, so did his engagements, as he was further hired to write 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 favorite and La fille du régiment (both from 1840), and Don Pasquale (1843), all of which became successes.
Donizetti’s wife, Virginia Vasselli, gave birth to three children, none of whom survived. Within a year of his parents’ deaths, his wife, on 30 July 1837, died from cholera. By 1843, Donizetti exhibited 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 sent back to Bergamo, his hometown. After several years in the grip of insanity, he died in 1848 at the house of the noble family Scotti.
Donizetti is best known for his operatic works. A prolific composer, he composed about 75 operas. Some of his famous tenor opera arias include the following:
La Figlia Del Reggimento: Ah! Mes Amis.
La Figlia Del Reggimento: Che Voi M’Amate
L’Elisir D’Amore: Una Furtiva Lacrima.
L’Elisir D’Amore: Quanto E Bella, Quanto E Cara.
L’Elisir D’Amore: Adira Forse Il Cielo.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Oh Meschina!
Lucia di Lammermoor: Fra Poco A Me Ricovero.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Qui Di Sposa Eterna Fede.
However, he also wrote music in a number of other forms, such as some church music including 3 oratorios and 28 cantatas, 193 songs, 45 duets, various orchestral works including 16 symphonies and around 9 small instrumental concertos, other chamber pieces, piano works, and 19 string quartets. One of his String Quartets in D major has been arranged for String Orchestra.