Giuseppe Donizetti

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Giuseppe Donizetti.

Giuseppe Donizetti (6 November 1788 – 12 February 1856) was an Italian musician. From 1828 he was Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the court of Sultan Mahmud II (1808–39).

His younger brother was the famous opera composer Gaetano Donizetti. Although the elder Donizetti was born in Bergamo, Italy, Istanbul became a second home for him, and he lived there until his death in 1856.

Giuseppe to joined the army in 1808, primarily for financial reasons. He enlisted in the Seventh Line Regiment of the Italian Army as “Musicante e Sarto” (musician and tailor). His military career continued and he was at the service of Napoleon’s forces as flutist on the Isle of Elba and in all the battles of “the Hundred Days”, except the Battle of Waterloo. On 1 May 1815 he left the military service in France and returned to Italy. In October, he joined the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont, later becoming the bandmaster in the Reggimento Provinciale di Casale. After the dissolution of the Reggimento, he joined the Primo Reggimento della Brigata Casale, again under as a bandmaster of the military army. Thanks to his visibility in the international military scene, he received the lucrative offer (8,000 francs) from Mahmud II to become the Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music, which he accepted.[1]

Donizetti Paşa, as he was called in the Levant, played a significant role in the introduction of European music to the Ottoman military. Apart from overseeing the training of the European-style military bands of Mahmud’s modern army, he taught music at the palace to the members of the Ottoman royal family, the princes and the ladies of the harem, is believed to have composed the first national anthem of the Ottoman Empire, supported the annual Italian opera season in Pera, organised concerts and operatic performances at court, and played host to a number of eminent virtuosi who visited Istanbul at the time, such as Franz Liszt, Parish Alvars and Leopold de Meyer.

He is buried in the vaults of the St. Esprit Cathedral, near the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, in Pera.

Emre Araci published a comprehensive biography of Giuseppe Donizetti in Turkish in 2007.[2] The volume Giuseppe Donizetti Pasha: Musical and Historical Trajectories between Italy and Turkey, edited by Federico Spinetti, was published in English and Italian by the Fondazione Donizetti in 2010.



  • Ashbrook, William (1982), Donizetti and his Operas, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-27663-2 ISBN 0-521-23526-X
  • The Musical Times: A Levantine life: Giuseppe Donizetti at the Ottoman court
  • Giuseppe Donizetti Pasha: Musical and Historical Trajectories between Italy and Turkey / Giuseppe Donizetti Pascià: Traiettorie musicali e storiche tra Italia e Turchia. Edited by Federico Spinetti . Bergamo, Fondazione Donizetti, 2010.
  • Maurizio Costanza, La Mezzaluna sul filo - La riforma ottomana di Mahmud II, Marcianumpress, Venezia 2010.
  • Weinstock, Herbert (1963), Donizetti and the World of Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, New York: Random House.