Composer. During his lifetime he ranked second only to Gioacchino Rossini among Italian opera composers of his day. He created two masterpieces, one tragic, the other comic: "Lucia di Lammermoor" (1835), with its famous sextet and "mad scene", and the delightful "Don Pasquale" (1843), his most consistently inspired effort. "L'Elisir d'amore" (1832), "Lucrezia Borgia" (1833), "La Fille du Regiment" (1840), "La Favorite" (1840), and "Linda di Chamounix" (1842) are still popular, especially in Europe. Donizetti was born in Bergamo, Italy, and studied music there and in Bologna. In his first operas, beginning with "Enrico di Borgagna" (1818), he imitated Rossini, and it was not until "Anna Bolena" (1830) that he found his own voice and won international success. In 1838 he settled in Paris and wrote most of his remaining operas in French. Donizetti was known as a sincere and friendly man, supportive of fellow composers and other artists, despite a personal life marred by tragedy. His wife and three children all died in epidemics, and in the early 1840's he began to suffer mental deterioration from syphilis. From 1845 to 1847 he was committed to an insane asylum at Ivry, near Paris, then taken to his native Bergamo, where he died. Along with Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini ("Norma"), Donizetti was the leading advocate of the operatic style known as "bel canto", which emphasized technically brilliant singing. This was really a continuation of the Italian musical tradition of the 1700s, as was Donizetti's practice of tailoring material to specific singers. His art was lyrical rather than dramatic, but his lyricism was so varied it could encompass any mood or situation. Donizetti wrote with incredible speed; he could turn out an entire three-act opera, text as well as music, in ten days. Often he was too facile for his own good and most of his 67 operas are forgotten. But the best of them continue to hold the stage, and Donizetti arias are still performed by vocalists around the world.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards