Donizetti, (Domenico) Gaetano (Maria)
- Mary Ann Smart
- and Julian Budden
(b Bergamo, Nov 1797; d Bergamo, April 8, 1848). Italian composer. A dominant figure in Italian opera, he was equally successful in comic and serious genres, and an important precursor of Verdi.
Donizetti was born in Bergamo, the fifth of six children of Andrea and Domenica (Nava) Donizetti. The family lived in extremely modest circumstances: the highest station Andrea Donizetti achieved was that of custodian and usher at Bergamo's pawnshop, the Monte de' Pegni. Although Gaetano's elder brother Giuseppe was a military bandsman and eventually became chief of music for the Ottoman armies, musical achievement was neither expected nor encouraged in the Donizetti family. The composer's own account, related late in life, sketches his home atmosphere with a characteristic mixture of melancholy and wit:
I was born underground in Borgo Canale [just outside the walls of Bergamo's upper city]. One descended a cellar staircase where no suspicion of light ever penetrated. And like an owl I took flight, bringing upon myself now sad, now happy forebodings, not encouraged by my poor father, who always repeated to me that it was impossible that one should compose....