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.
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.
The main difference between Opera and the previous polyphonic vocal music is the unique melodic line, resulting from the merging of bass and singing. In polyphonic music different vocal lines work independently, overlapping one another and making a text often incomprehensible. Opera instead offered a new way for making words expressive and intelligible, by creating a single melodic line, supported by an accompaniment.