[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1491″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_heading main_heading=”Gaetano Donizetti: The Boy from the Basement of Bergamo”][/ultimate_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”1458″ img_size=”medium”][vc_single_image image=”1524″ img_size=”medium”][vc_single_image image=”1527″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]by Claire Mathieson
Although Gaetano Donizetti’s opera Don Pasquale is set in the ancient and renowned city of Rome, the composer both started and ended his life in Bergamo, a relatively small city near Milan. With its Città Alta (upper city) and Città Bassa (lower city), connected today via funicular railway, it’s not hard to imagine Bergamo inspiring great music, an art form with its own highs and lows. Since Donizetti’s time, it has become a modern city in many ways; it was heavily industrialized in the 20th century and now has the third-busiest airport in Italy, which the well-travelled composer would likely frequent were he alive today. However, many landmarks of Donizetti’s life still stand in Bergamo, solid reminders of the man behind the music.
At Donizetti’s birthplace (now a museum) in Bergamo’s Borgo Canale district, one can still visit the dark basement in which the great composer drew his first breath. “I was born underground in Borgo Canale.” He wrote in a letter to German composer Johann Simon Mayr, his teacher. “You went down cellar steps, where no glimmer of light ever penetrated.” However, the basement is just the first step in Donizetti’s story, and many of Bergamo’s other monuments showcase the great heights to which he climbed.
Lezioni Caritatevoli di Musica
When Donizetti was nine, his father – a pawnshop caretaker – enrolled him in Mayr’s Lezioni Caritatevoli di Musica (Charitable Music Lessons). Donizetti became the most famous of Mayr’s pupils, and now – though greatly changed – the very school that took him in and helped him realize his potential is doing the same for today’s musicians under the name Gaetano Donizetti Institute of Advanced Music Studies.
A century after Donizetti’s basement birth, this theater – before known as the Teatro Nuovo or Teatro di Fiera – was rechristened the Teatro Donizetti. In 1960, the theater put on the world premiere of its namesake’s first opera, Il Pigmalione, never performed in Donizetti’s lifetime. In the park beside the theater, a monument to Donizetti allows visitors to see a statue of the composer listening to his lyre-plucking muse from a stone bench.
Santa Maria Maggiore
Although it was Mayr’s relatively new school that nurtured Donizetti to greatness, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore had been training singers in Bergamo since the late 1400s. It is only fitting that its churchyard became Donizetti’s final resting place, not far from that of Mayr. In keeping with the theme of opposites – high and low, poverty and success – Donizetti’s tomb reads “Trovatore fecondo di sacre e profane melodie,” prolific troubadour of sacred and profane melodies.
Although Bergamo only bookended Donizetti’s life and lacks the recognition of other cities where he spent many of his years, like Naples, Paris, and Vienna, one can see its influence on him in his own lasting effects on it. From the buildings that now bear his name to his gravesite – within singing distance of that of his beloved teacher – Donizetti is a keystone in Bergamo’s history and culture, and the city itself is a testament to one boy’s power to go from a cellar to the stars.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1530″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row]