A famous son of Bergamo is Gaetano Donizetti, a prolific composer of operas in the early part of the 19th century, who is believed to have been a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other Italian composers who followed him.
You can visit the place where Donizetti was born in Borgo Canale, in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses, just outside the walls of the Città Alta (upper town.) Leave the city through the Porta S. Alessandra and go past the San Vigilio funicolare to reach the street.
Donizetti was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife on 29 November 1797 .
Donizetti himself wrote about his birthplace: “…I was born underground in Borgo Canale. One descended the stairs to the basement, where no ray of sunlight had ever been seen. And like an owl I flew forth…”
From his humble beginnings he developed a love for music and went on to compose some of the most lyrical operas of all time, such as Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love), which are still regularly performed today.
Perhaps his most famous aria, from L’Elisir d’Amore, is Una Furtiva Lagrima (A secret tear.) This was a favourite of the late, great Luciano Pavarotti and is regularly performed and recorded on the CDs of other tenors.
One of the most beautiful versions I have heard recently is by Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon, who has become well-known to television viewers through his appearances on ITV’s Popstar to Opera Star. He includes it on his albums, Viva Villazon and Rolando Villazon Tenor.
After a magnificent career, Donizetti returned to Bergamo and died in 1843 in the baroque Palazzo Scotti, where he was living as a guest, in the street now named Via Donizetti in the Città Alta.
There is a museum dedicated to his life and career in the former Palazzo Misericordia Maggiore in Via Arena. His tomb is in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo.
There is also a monument dedicated to him near the Teatro Donizetti in the Città Bassa (lower town.)
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