Along with Rossini and Bellini, Donizetti became the master of bel canto writing; an Italian vocal technique concentrating on tremendous clarity and purity of the voice.
For the last 50 years, such works as his Lucia di Lammermor and La Fille du Regiment have cemented their place in the mainstream operatic repertoire, yet only a handful of Donizetti’s 75 operas hold such a popular position. Indeed Donizetti’s speed of composition was remarkable, at one point composing 31 operas within 12 months. Donizetti was far more than a purely operatic composer however, with over 16 symphonies, 19 string quartets, 193 songs, oratorios, cantatas, concertos and sonatas to his name. Despite the range of his talents, it was predominantly his skill in bel canto opera that gave Donizetti his longstanding reputation, particularly in his ability to quickly write numerous “hit” operas in succession (although rarely both popular and critical successes).
The composers’ life was far from easy however; all three of his children were stillborn and both his parents and his wife died within a year of each other. These hardships clearly took their toll on Donizetti and by 1843 was apparently suffering from both syphilis and mental difficulties – thought to be manic depression. He died in Bergamo 1848, three years after being institutionalized in Paris. Verdi reportedly visited the composer before he died, linking two generations of great Italian operatic masters.