Donizetti was an Italian composer most famous for his bel canto style operas. He was one of the three greats, along with Rossini and Bellini.
Gaetano Donizetti was born to a poor family in Bergamo in 1797. Johann Simon Mayr noticed the ragged boy’s talent for music and trained him and then ensured that he receive further education at the prestigious Lezioni Caritatevoli School in Bologna from 1815. Donizetti also studied counterpoint later with Padre Mattei.
Donizetti began composing opera as early as 1816, but his works up until 1817 were never staged. His first opera to be performed was Enrico di Borgogna (1818) at the Teatro di San Luca in Venice. The theatre was impressed with his work and immediately requested another work, the one-act farsa Una follia (lost). The impresario then asked for two more, Le nozze in villa (Mantua, 1819) and Il falegname di Livonia (Venice, S Samuele, 1819). During this early period he also composed many of his sacred works and several string quartets for Mayr’s ensemble.
Donizetti received the chance in 1821 to compose for the new Teatro Argentina in Rome, for which he composed Zoraid di Granata (1821), which proved to be even more successful than his previous works. This led to contact with the leading impresario, Domenico Barbaja, who asked Donizetti to compose for Naples. He moved to Naples the next year, where he stayed for 16 years. His first opera while in Naples was La zingara (1822), which is rumoured to have impressed Bellini so much that he played it every day on his harpsichord.