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.
At the beginning of his carrier, Donizetti writes mainly for the small theatres in Venice. Every new work by the young maestro was welcomed and praised by the press, as an original new development of Rossini’s style. Anna Bolena and L’Elisir d’Amore both premiered in Milan on librettos by Felice Romani, finally launched Donizetti as one of the most prominent European opera composers. These two masterpieces are the first of a list of milestones written by Donizetti that mark the history of romantic Italian theatre.
Bellini’s premature death allowed finally Donizetti to take the title of “Main Italian composer” left vacant by Rossini a decade before. On the other end, his sickness and death spared him the humiliation of being ousted again by the irresistible rise of Verdi.