Composers Datebook®

Donizetti's 'Daughter' in 1840 and 1940

Composers Datebook - Feb. 11, 2024


On today’s date in 1840, a new opera by Gaetano Donizetti debuted at the Opéra Comique in Paris. This was La Fille du Régiment, or The Daughter of the Regiment. Other operas by the popular Italian composer were already playing in Paris, and others were scheduled. Despite being tailor-made to Parisian tastes, The Daughter of the Regiment was not well received.

Apparently, French composers, Berlioz among them, felt threatened by the Donizetti blitz.

“Monsieur Donizetti seems to treat us like a conquered country,” Berlioz wrote. “It is a veritable invasion. One can no longer speak of the opera houses of Paris, but only of the opera houses of Donizetti!”

Well, eventually, Donizetti did win over French hearts and minds. And it’s ironic to note that 100 years after its 1840 premiere, Paris was indeed an occupied country. In 1940, German tanks rolled into Paris, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, patriotic French soprano Lily Pons used her starring role in a revival of Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment to express her solidarity with the French Resistance. She added a rousing version of La Marseillaise to the finale of Donizetti’s score, which brought sympathetic American audiences to their feet.

Music Played in Today's Program

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848): La Fille du Regiment, excerpt; Joan Sutherland, soprano; Covent Garden Orchestra; Richard Bonynge, cond. London 414 520

Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836) (arr. Berlioz): La Marseillaise; Jessye Norman, soprano; Paris Orchestra; Semyon Bychkov, cond. Philips 422 922

On This Day


  • 1795 - Swedish song composer Carl Mikael Bellman, age 55, in Stockholm;

  • 1939 - Austrian composer Franz Schmidt, age 72, in Perchtoldsdorf;


  • 1725 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 127 ("Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott") performed on Estomihi Sunday as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1727 - Handel: opera “Admeto” in London (Julian date: Jan. 31);

  • 1785 - Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in d, in Vienna, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1840 - Donizetti: opera "La fille du régiment" (The Daughter of the Regiment), at the Opéra-Comique in Paris;

  • 1843 - Verdi: opera "I Lombardi" (The Lombards) in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 1883 - Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 (2nd and 3rd movements only), by Vienna Philharmonic, with Wilhelm Jahn conducting; Gustav Mahler led the Vienna Philharmonic on February 26, 1899, in the first, heavily cut, performance of the complete work;

  • 1892 - Rachmaninoff: “Trio élégiaque” (Elegiac Trio) No. 1 in G minor, for violin, cello, and piano, in Moscow, with David Kreyn (violin), Anatoly Brandukov (cello), and the composer at the piano (Julian date: Jan. 30);

  • 1903 - Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in a version prepared by Ferdinand Löwe, by the Vienna Symphony, with Löwe conducting; The original version of Bruckner's Ninth was first performed at a private concert in Munich on April 2, 1932, and then at a public Vienna Philharmonic concert conducted by Clemens Krauss on October 23, 1932;

  • 1938 - Ernest Bloch: "Evocations" for orchestra, by the San Francisco Symphony, Pierre Monteux conducting;

  • 1949 - Stravinsky: "Orpheus" ballet (as a concert work), by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting; The staged ballet had premiere in New York on April 28, 1948;

  • 1952 - Hugo Weisgall: opera 'The Tenor," in Baltimore;

  • 1953 - Chávez: Symphony No. 4 ("Sinfonía romantica") by the Louisville Orchestra, with the composer conducting;

  • 1971 - Henze: "Compases para Preguntas ensimismandes" in Basel, Switzerland;

  • 1973 - Feldman: "Voices and Instruments II," in Buffalo, N.Y.;


  • 1841 - First documented American performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 at the New York's Broadway Tabernacle, by the German Society of New York, Uri Corelli Hill conducting; Three movements of Beethoven's symphony (excluding the third) were given in April 3, 1841, at Boston's Odeon by the Academy of Music, Henry Schmidt conducting; The complete symphony was included on the first program given by the New York Philharmonic on December 7, 1842; The Symphony was presented next in Philadelphia (April 3, 1848), Baltimore (March 9, 1849), Louisville (May 14, 1853), St. Louis (May 17, 1853), and Milwaukee (April 27, 1855); On March 28, 1856, 30 players of the San Francisco German Society performed Beethoven's Fifth at the Music Hall in that city, with Rudolf Herold conducting (The San Francisco Chronicle review the following day noted: "The pieces in the program are very beautiful, but it must be said that some of them appeared to be considered very tedious by the greater number of the audience. The Adagio, Scherzo and Finale of Beethoven's Symphony in C Minor, for instance, are portions of a very grand and celebrated composition, but they caused many to yawn."); The first public performance of this symphony had occurred in Vienna, with the composer conducting, on Dec. 22, 1808;

  • 1847 - American inventor Thomas A. Edison, the developer of the phonograph, is born in Milan, Ohio;

  • 1907 - Italian composer Giacomo Puccini attends the American premiere of his opera "Madama Butterfly," conducted by Arturo Toscanini at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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