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.
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.
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.
Elisir d’amore is Donizetti’s first opera to show his full mastery of the comic style. Arias like “Adina believe me” and the most famous “A furtive tear” are pieces in which Donizetti not simply suggests emotions but gives body to their very essence thanks to a music of universal, immortal power. The story is set at the end of eighteenth century, in a country village.