The idea of creating a museum dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti began to crystallize in 1897, the year in which the first centenary of his birth was celebrated. The days between 22 August and 22 September saw the inauguration, together with other celebrations, of a large exhibition that put on display all the material connected to Donizetti that it had been possible to recover, including material scattered around France and Austria, as well as that found in Italy.
In addition to everything that belonged to or was connected to Donizetti, many other exhibits were also put on display, such as: relics, letters, books, autograph music scores, portraits and daguerreotypes of other artists that the musician from Bergamo had known during his career, including Rossini, Verdi, Dumas, Scribe, Spontini, Adam and many others.
However, once the celebrations were over, these precious relics were restored to their rightful owners and once again spread throughout Europe.
It was then that the Bergamaschi began to want to create a museum in honour of their fellow citizen that would collect, preserve and put on public display as wide a range of Donizettian memorabilia as possible. It would take, however, another five years before this happened.
Only in 1902 did the right opportunity arise, when Baroness Giovanna Ginevra Rota Basoni Scotti , in a great act of munificence, took the decision to donate all her Donizettian relics to the Opera Pia Misericordia Maggiore of Bergamo on the condition that the organisation should guard forever the precious collection in a decorous and profitable way […] in those buildings of the Pia Scuola di Musica that offer the greatest security […] a venue that should be known as the “Museo Donizzetiano ” (from the donation acts, 15 December 1902).
In 1905 Bergamo Council authorised the Donizettian relics in its possession (previously stored, for the most part, in the Civica Biblioteca Angelo Mai) to be transferred to the Misericordia Maggiore, with the aim of offering an alternative to the opening of a Donizettian Museum in the city. The museum was opened to the public on 15 September 1906 and was assembled in a single hall of the ancient building that is now home to the Civico Istituto Musicale.
THE MUSEUM ROOMS - As a result of the opening of a new section of the museum devoted to musical instruments, the Museo Donizettiano now occupies two rooms of the fourteenth to sixteenth century building, property of the Misericordia Maggiore, known as “Palazzo della Misericordia”. The interior of the main reception room, dedicated to the life and work of Donizetti, is ornately decorated with neoclassical frescoes that date from 1802 which are the work of the painter Bonomini and his assistants.
Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini (1756-1839), also known by the name of Borromini , is best known for the series of paintings entitled Danza Macabra in the church of S.Grata in Borgo Canale.
The collection is still conserved in the apse of the church and is well worth a visit.
THE ARCHIVE AND THE LIBRARY - Building on the ample initial collection, the material in the Museo Donizzetiano continued to grow over the years, necessitating the foundation of an archive, an essential resource for musicologists and Donizetti scholars. Storing everything that is not on display in the museum, the archive holds: important autograph musical scores, original printed editions of books, libretti, correspondence in original and photocopied form, a valuable iconographic collection and various relics.
As well as material pertinent to Donizetti, there is also a small collection of materials regarding other composers and musicians (Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Mayr, Ponchielli, Rubini, Pasini, etc…). The archive collection is completed by a small library, enriched with rare volumes and pamphlets on Donizetti and opera in general.