Opera, until then the favourite entertainment of aristocracy and educated classes, was going to change radically as a consequence of the French revolution. In the three decades of the rise and fall of Napoleon, opera social function changed completely and irrevocably.
La Sonnambula was a complete triumph, since its premiere. The newspapers wrote of “a melody that goes to the heart, an instrumentation always beautiful and well built” and reported of “endless applauses”. The story revolves around the character of Amina, the archetypal of the slandered innocent.
Operatic voices are divided into 4 categories: soprano (high female), alto (low female), tenor (high male) and bass (low male). There are also 2 intermediate voices: mezzo soprano, female voice and baritone, male voice between tenor and bass. There are many more subtle distinctions used to define the range, tone, colour and timbre of a voice. They developed as a consequence of increasingly demanding roles which required more specific vocal types.
Donizetti moves to Paris in 1834-1835 called, along with Bellini, by Rossini in his capacity as co-director of the Théâtre Italien. In 1843 the first symptoms of a brain disease that rapidly and progressively got worse to degenerate during the summer 1845. Subsequent medical treatments made the situation irreparable and in February 1846 the composer was interned in an institution for mentally ill in Paris.