Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (29 November 1797 – 8 April 1848) along with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, was a leading composer of the bel canto opera style during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Born in Bergamo in Lombardy, was taken, at an early age, under the wing of composer Simon Mayr who had enrolled him by means of a full scholarship. Mayr was also instrumental in obtaining a place for the young man at the Bologna Academy, where, at the age of 19, he wrote his first one-act opera, the comedy Il Pigmalione.
Over the course of his career, Donizetti wrote almost 70 operas. An offer in 1822 from Domenico Barbaja, the impresario of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, which followed the composer's ninth opera, led to his move to that city and his residency there which lasted until the production of Caterina Cornaro in January 1844. In all, Naples presented 51 of Donizetti's operas.
Before 1830, success came primarily with his comic operas, the serious ones failing to attract significant audiences. However, his first notable success came with an opera seria, Zoraida di Granata, which was presented in 1822 in Rome. In 1830, when Anna Bolena was premiered, Donizetti made a major impact on the Italian and international opera scene and this shifted the balance of success away from primarily comedic operas, although even after that date, his best-known works included comedies such as L'elisir d'amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843). Significant historical dramas did appear and became successful; they included Lucia di Lammermoor (the first to have a libretto written by Salvatore Cammarano) given in Naples in 1835, and one of the most successful Neapolitan operas, Roberto Devereux in 1837. Up to that point, all of his operas had been set to Italian libretti.
Donizetti found himself increasingly chafing against the censorial limitations which existed in Italy (and especially in Naples). From about 1836, he became interested in working in Paris, where he saw much greater freedom to choose subject matter, in addition to receiving larger fees and greater prestige. From 1838 onward, with an offer from the Paris Opéra for two new works, he spent a considerable period of the following ten years in that city, and set several operas to French texts as well as overseeing staging of his Italian works. The first opera was a French version of the then-unperformed Poliuto which, in April 1840, was revised to become Les martyrs. Two new operas were also given in Paris at that time.
As the 1840s progressed, Donizetti moved regularly between Naples, Rome, Paris, and Vienna continuing to compose and stage his own operas as well as those of other composers. But from around 1843, severe illness began to take hold and to limit his activities. Eventually, by early 1846 he was obliged to be confined to an institution for the mentally ill and, by late 1847, friends had him moved back to Bergamo, where he died in April 1848.
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (3 November 1801 – 23 September 1835) was an Italian opera composer, who was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania". Many years later, in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi "praised the broad curves of Bellini's melody: 'there are extremely long melodies as no-one else had ever made before' "
A large amount of what is known about Bellini's life and his activities comes from surviving letters—except for a short period—which were written over his lifetime to his friend Francesco Florimo, whom he had met as a fellow student in Naples and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. Other sources of information come from correspondence saved by other friends and business acquaintances.
Bellini was the quintessential composer of the Italian bel canto era of the early 19th century, and his work has been summed up by the London critic Tim Ashley as:
... also hugely influential, as much admired by other composers as he was by the public. Verdi raved about his "long, long, long melodies ..." Wagner, who rarely liked anyone but himself, was spellbound by Bellini's almost uncanny ability to match music with text and psychology. Liszt and Chopin professed themselves fans. Of the 19th-century giants, only Berlioz demurred. Those musicologists who consider Bellini to be merely a melancholic tunesmith are now in the minority.
In considering which of his operas can be seen to be his greatest successes over the almost two hundred years since his death, Il pirata laid much of the groundwork in 1827, achieving very early recognition in comparison to Donizetti's having written thirty operas before his major 1830 triumph with Anna Bolena. Both I Capuleti ed i Montecchi at La Fenice in 1830 and La sonnambula in Milan in 1831 reached new triumphal heights, although initially Norma, given at La Scala in 1831 did not fare as well until later performances elsewhere. "The genuine triumph" of I puritani in January 1835 in Paris capped a significant career. Certainly, Capuleti, La sonnambula, Norma, and I puritani are regularly performed today.
After his initial success in Naples, most of the rest of his short life was spent outside of both Sicily and Naples, those years being followed with his living and composing in Milan and Northern Italy, and—after a visit to London—then came his final masterpiece in Paris, I puritani. Only nine months later, Bellini died in Puteaux, France at the age of 33.