8 April 2016

Gaetano Donizetti - operatic genius

The day the music died

This portrait of Gaetano Donizetto was painted by Joseph Kriehuber in 1842
Joseph Kriehuber's 1842 portrait of
Gaetano Donizetti
A prolific composer of operas in the first half of the 19th century, Gaetano Donizetti died on this day in 1848 in Bergamo in Lombardy.

Donizetti had returned to his native city after a brilliant international career to spend his last days in the Palazzo Scotti in the Città Alta, the upper town.

By then seriously ill, he was looked after by friends in the gracious surroundings of the palazzo until his death. His tomb is in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where it is marked by a white, marble monument.

Donizetti has since become acknowledged as the greatest composer of lyrical opera of all time. He was a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other composers who came after him.

His best and most famous operas are considered to be Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Pasquale and L’Elisir d’Amore.

In Via Sentierone in Bergamo’s lower town there is an elaborate white marble monument to the composer next to Teatro Donizetti, which was renamed in his honour in 1897 on the centenary of his birth.

Travel tip:

Donizetti’s Casa Natale (birthplace), is in Borgo Canale just outside the walls of the upper town. It has now been declared a national monument and is open free to visitors every weekend. You can still see the well from which the family drew their water and the fireplace where meals were cooked, which would also have been their only source of heating.

To reach Donizetti’s birthplace, leave the Città Alta through Porta Sant’Alessandro and go past the station for the San Vigilio funicolare. Borgo Canale is the next street on the right and Casa Natale, at number 14, is in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses and is marked by a plaque.

The bed in which Donizetti spent his final hours in Palazzo
Scotti is on display in the museum in Via Arena
Travel tip:

A museum dedicated to Donizetti’s life and career is housed in the former Palazzo Misericordia Maggiore, now a musical institute, in Via Arena in the Città Alta. There are many interesting letters, documents and original scores on display along with the bed he died in and the chair he sat in while staying in Palazzo Scotti towards the end of his life. Donizetti’s tomb can be seen in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta.


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