Rossini wrote his first opera, Demetrio e Polibio in 1806 not even fifteen. His official debut was in Venice in 1810 with the opera La Cambiale di Matrimonio. In the following two decades Rossini composed 39 operas, 4 or 5 new ones per year, with some controversial premieres, such as the Barber of Seville legendary fiasco in Rome in 1816 and some extraordinary successes: La Gazza Ladra, Zelmira and Semiramide, the last opera premiered in Italy in 1823.
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.
Venice was an important and rich commercial centre, welcoming foreign merchants, businessmen dignitaries and aristocrats on the Grand Tour. The demand for entertainment was therefore high, particularly during the Carnevale, Some enterprising impresarios came up with the idea of setting up a public opera house, charging the public for the hire of boxes on a subscription system. The business turned out to be profitable. In a few years 16 theatres were built requiring a big number of new operas. By the end of 1600 the repertoire counted about 300 operas.