Not to be missed in Bergamo's Città Alta...
|Furniture from Donizetti's house can be|
seen in the museum in Via Arena
The beautiful Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore in Bergamo’s Città Alta houses a unique and fascinating museum dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti.
The palace at Number 9 Via Arena is home to the collection of furniture, paintings, books and musical scores brought together to commemorate the life of the brilliant composer, who was born and died in Bergamo.
Via Arena is off the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore and climbs towards the west end of the Città Alta. It can be accessed after leaving the church of Santa Maria Maggiore at the south entrance.
The museum is dedicated to the life and works of Donizetti, who composed about 70 highly regarded operas in 30 years, making him one of the leading composers of opera in the early part of the 19th century and a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other Italian composers who came after him.
Visitors are able to see Donizetti’s furniture, including the bed he died in and the chair he used to sit in towards the end of his life when he was living in Palazzo Scotti in Bergamo’s Città Alta as the guest of a wealthy family. The composer’s piano, portraits, original scores from his operas and his letters are also on view in display cases, as well as a library of other documents, which have been of great help to scholars.
The palazzo dates back to the 13th century but was remodelled in the 17th century and has a very decorative interior that is worth looking at for its own sake.
To add to the atmosphere as you look round the museum, you will hear occasional snatches of music played by students using the practice rooms of the musical institute, which is also housed in the palace.
Donizetti was born in Borgo Canale, a street that is a few metres outside the walls of the Città Alta. Visitors can see the place where he was born -- on 29 November 1797 -- which is marked by a plaque, at number 14 in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses.
Donizetti was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife. He once 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…”
Donizetti developed a love for music and despite the poverty of his family benefited from early tuition in Bergamo . He went on to compose some of the greatest lyrical operas of all time such as Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore.
After a magnificent career, Donizetti returned to Bergamo and died in 1843 in the Palazzo Scotti in the street now named Via Donizetti in the Città Alta.
Donizetti’s tomb is in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta.
A monument dedicated to him was erected in Bergamo in 1897, 100 years after his birth, near Teatro Donizetti in Via Sentierone in the Città Bassa (lower town.)