Gaetano Donizetti was an Italian composer. He was born in Bergamo on November 29, 1797. His family was poor, and Donizetti was given a free musical education at a school founded by composer Simone Mayr. Mayr recognized young Donizetti’s talent and financed his later studies at Bologna’s secondary school for music. Donizetti’s opera Enrico di Borgogna premiered in 1818. From that moment on, his managers imposed deadlines that forced him into a frenzy of composing. Over the next 30 years, Donizetti would write some 70 different operas. He wrote for theaters in different cities, primarily in Milan, Rome and Naples. His first success was Anna Bolena, written in just over a month in 1830 for Milan’s Teatro Carcano.
In 1832, the opera L'Elisir d’amore was also staged in Milan. The famous aria Una furtiva lagrima highlighted Donizetti’s talent for introducing pitiable, melancholy elements even within comical plots. He wrote many dramatic operas, often centered around heroines who were the victims of tragic love. His masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor is a perfect example. It was produced in Naples in 1835. In the opera, Donizetti managed to musically express the passion and psychology of a female lead immersed in a conflicted love.
Donizetti moved abroad in 1838, dividing his time between Paris and Vienna. In 1843, he wrote the opera Don Pasquale, including a great deal of the libretto. It was one of his last successes. Around this time, Donizetti experienced the first symptoms of a nervous disease that would eventually drive him mad. In 1846 he was confined to a French mental institution at Ivry. He was later transferred to Bergamo and died there on April 8, 1848 in a state of total dementia. He was 50. One of the great masters of 19th-century opera had passed away.