Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose actual name is Joannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a composer, pianist, violinist and conductor from the classical period, born in Salzburg. Mozart was a child prodigy. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Along with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart is considered to be one of the most influential composers of all of music's history. Within the classical tradition, he was able to develop new musical concepts which left an everlasting impression on all the composers that came after him. Together with Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven he is part of the First Viennese School. At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. From 1763 he traveled with his family through all of Europe for three years and from 1769 he traveled to Italy and France with his father Leopold after which he took residence in Paris. On July 3rd, 1778, his mother passed away and after a short stay in Munich with the Weber family, his father urged him to return to Salzburg, where he was once again hired by the Bishop. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death.
Giuseppe Verdi is viewed as one of the most important, and most popular, opera composers of Italy. Few composers knew how to balance artistic ideals and commericial interersts like him. He was a composer of 'hits', like his "La donna è mobile" from his opera Rigoletto and his "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from his opera Nabucco, and he was careful not to have his audience feel bored at any moment. Especially his early works are characterised by strongly propelling, rhytmic power. A common example is his Il Trovatore. Yet, Verdi was also a composer with ideals. If he would get intrigued by a character, it became his mission to portray to persona as best as he could in the music. This sometimes meant he was forced to alter or neglect traditional opera forms, like he did in Rigoletto. He was not afraid to touch on socially sensitive matters, which at times led to issues with the establishment. For instance, his opera La traviata turned out to be a controversial one, due to its courtesan heroine. Verdi never engaged in the intellectual discussions on music of his time. He pretended to be a simple man who felt most at home in the countryside. Nonetheless, with the masterful fugal ending of his last opera Falstaff he undoubtedly showed his intellectual level of composing.
Gaetano Donizetti was born in 1797 in a dark basement in Bergamo. He was born in a poor family with six children, but Donizetti was lucky enough to receive a free musical education at the school of the opera composer Simone Mayr. Mayr recognised Donizetti's talent and after giving him composition lessons he ensured he could continue his studies in Bologna. He also helped him get his first opera commission. Donizetti kept working hard and for a considerable period he composed four operas each year. A large part of his career, he worked in Naples, which could be a reason why his artistic style remained relatively conventional. After all, the opera audience in Naples had a conservative taste and censorship was extraordinarily strict: absolutely no violence or 'improper' romantic relationships on stage! Donizetti had the gift to compose remarkably fast and wrote in total more than 80 operas, both serious and comic. His operas L'Elisir d'Amore and Don Pasquale remain popular due to their cheerful and energetic music, uplifting rhythms, and tender melodies. Among his serious operas, his Lucia di Lammermoor, with its famous "mad scene" is most popular. Donizetti died in 1848 in Bergamo, after staying in a medical facility in Paris for months, suffering from dementia and paralysed by syphilis. A tragic death for a composer who was also known for his warm personality.