Don Pasquale

A guide to Donizetti

Gaetano Donizetti’s life has elements of his operas: poverty, adventure and success


Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti born in Bergamo, Italy.

Donizetti is born into a poor family and is the youngest of three sons. He comes from a non-musical background, as his father is the caretaker of the local pawnshop.


Donizetti receives a scholarship at the Bergamo music school.

The school is run by opera composer Johann Simon Mayr, who recognises Donizetti’s early talents.


He writes his first one-act opera, the comedy Il Pigmalione.


Donizetti moves to Naples.


Donizetti gains fame across Europe with Anna Bolena.

Produced in Milan, the opera about Anne Boleyn is eventually taken across the Atlantic.


Anna Bolena premieres in Paris and is considered a success.


Donizetti writes L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love). The new opera was a huge success and was based on a libretto by Felice Romani, considered the best theatre poet of that time.


Donizetti moves to Paris.

Paris is a hotbed for young Italian composers – with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini having also gravitated towards the city. In his first year in Paris he has works performed at each of the city’s three top opera venues:

La Fille du régiment at the Opéra Comique

Les Martyrs at the Opéra

L’elisir d’amore at the Théâtre Italien


He retires from composing operas.

Donizetti writes 70 operas before his health forces him to retire. He is cared for by his nephew, Andrea, the son of his eldest brother.


Donizetti dies, back in his hometown of Bergamo.

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