Discovering Donizetti

I’m not exactly sure when this blog went from posts about teaching to posts about opera. My only defense is that this is where I am right now and where my learning is taking place. I guess I have a second defense in that I might be teaching music classes next year, but more about that in a future post.

While searching for a new opera to listen to for the month of February, I came across the composer, Gaetano Donizetti. For me, this would be the first time listening to one of his operas. Donizetti was quite a prolific composer in this genre. He composed between 60 and 70 operas depending on which source you use for research (Coburn, n.d.). He is seen as a transitional figure in the development of opera between Rossini and Verdi (Hussey, 2019).

The opera I chose to listen to was L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) and is one of his comic operas. Hussey (2019) describes the comic operas of Donizetti as having a “sparkling wit and gaiety”. I think this is a fitting description for L’elisir d’amore.

I feel like this would be a great opera for someone just beginning to listen to this genre. It is only two acts and is fairly short. The whole opera is a little more than an hour long. Each scene is not very long and there is plenty of variety between solo arias, mixed voices, and a chorus. I think these various vocal combinations made this a very approachable and enjoyable opera. There are also quite a few websites where you can find various recordings of selected arias, a synopsis of each act and scene, as well as, translations of the Italian libretto.

On the topic of arias, there are two found in this opera that are quite beautiful and have recordings done by some of the great tenors and sopranos. “Una furtiva lacrima” is in Act 2 and has been recorded by tenors such as Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo. “Prendi, prendi, per mi sei libero” is the other aria and is also in the second act. Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, and Hilda Guden have all done recordings of this aria.

If you’re looking to get started with an introduction to opera, I think L’elisir d’amore is where you want to begin. It will take about an hour of your time and it provides you with a rather light-hearted story and two beautiful arias to add to your listening experience. If your curious about this genre, give this opera by Donizetti a listen. Enjoy!


Coburn, S. (n.d.). Gaetano Donizetti: Biography & History. Retrieved from

Hussey, D. (2019, April 4). Gaetano Donizetti. Retrieved from

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