Donizetti’s kindness of heart was illustrated by the interesting circumstances of his saving an obscure Neapolitan theatre from ruin. Hearing that it was on the verge of suspension and the performers in great distress, the composer sought them out and supplied their immediate wants. The manager said a new work from the pen of Donizetti would be his salvation. “You shall have one within a week,” was the answer.
Lacking a subject, he himself rearranged an old French vaudeville, and within the week the libretto was written, the music composed, the parts learned, the opera performed, and the theatre saved. There could be no greater proof of his generosity of heart and his versatility of talent. In these days of bitter quarreling over the rights of authors in their works, it may be amusing to know that Victor Hugo contested the rights of Italian librettists to borrow their plots from French plays. When “Lucrezia Borgia,” composed for Milan in 1834, was produced at Paris in 1840, the French poet instituted a suit for an infringement of copyright. He gained his action, and “Lucrezia Borgia” became “La Rinegata,” Pope Alexander the Sixth’s Italians being metamorphosed into Turks.*
* Victor Hugo did the same thing with Verdi’s “Ernani,” and other French authors followed with legal actions. The matter was finally arranged on condition of an indemnity being paid to the original French dramatists. The principle involved had been established nearly two centuries before. In a privilege granted to St. Amant in 1653 for the publication of his “Moise Sauve,” it was forbidden to extract from that epic materials for a play or poem. The descendants of Beaumarchais fought for the same concession, and not very long ago it was decided that the translators and arrangers of “Le Nozze di Figaro” for the Theatre Lyrique must share their receipts with the living representatives of the author of “Le Mariage de Figaro.”
“Lucrezia Borgia,” which, though based on one of the most dramatic of stories and full of beautiful music, is not dramatically treated by the composer, seems to mark the distance about half way between the styles of Rossini and Verdi. In it there is but little recitative, and in the treatment of the chorus we find the method which Verdi afterward came to use exclusively. When Donizetti revisited Paris in 1840 he produced in rapid succession “I Martiri,” “La Fille du Regiment,” and “La Favorita.” In the second of these works Jenny Lind, Sontag, and Alboni won bright triumphs at a subsequent period.
“La Favorita,” the story of which was drawn from “L’Ange de Nigida,” and founded in the first instance on a French play, “Le Comte de Commingues,” was put on the stage at the Academie with a magnificent cast and scenery, and achieved a success immediately great, for as a dramatic opera it stands far in the van of all the composer’s productions. The whole of the