Opera was at the center of nineteenth century society. Romantic, political,
and diplomatic intrigue all occurred in opera houses, and great composers
often used their work as a medium for political statements. Because
of this, governments regarded theatres as "potential founts of
sedition or disorder." In an effort to control questionable storylines,
censorship was applied to operas in many countries.
Like other composers of his time, Donizetti experienced censorship
on several occasions. Two months before The Elixir of Love premiered,
Donizetti's opera Ugo conte di Parigi was censored. While this
experience did not stop Donizetti from composing, it did prompt a "deliberate
campaign throughout the rest of his Italian career to push the censors
to the limits in his efforts to deal with powerful subjects."
In November of 1834 he signed a contract to produce one opera seria
every year for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. By September he had completed
his first opera, Maria Stuarda, based on a libretto written by
Schiller which dealt with the life and death of Mary Queen of Scots.
The censors objected to this opera which ended with the execution of
a monarch, so Donizetti was forced to make revisions. It wasn't until
December 30, 1835 that Maria Stuarda was performed.
Donizetti continued to challenge the censors with his operas. In 1838
as part of his contract with Naples he composed Poliuto, an opera
based on a classical work which dealt with faith. The King of Naples
banned it after its premiere saying, "Let's leave the saints in
the calendars and not put them on stage." With this, Donizetti
severed his ties with Naples and moved to Paris.
In spite of difficulties with censors, Donizetti experienced a successful
career. Elixir, The Daughter of the Regiment, and Don Pasquale
all receive numerous performances worldwide, and Lucia di Lammermoor,
written immediately following his battle over Maria Stuarda,
was one of the ten most frequently performed operas during the 2000/2001
Information for this article is from "The New Grove Dictionary
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