This ballet was created for “Salute to Italy,” a New York City Ballet program celebrating the 100th anniversary of Italy’s unification. Balanchine felt he needed a “cheerful and sunny work” to offset the more somber tone of the other ballets on the program, which included La Sonnambula.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) was a prolific composer who wrote more than 65 operas. His works celebrated the beauties of bel canto singing, and had great theatrical flair, melody, and lyrical phrasing. He is best known for his tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor and the light-hearted L’Elisir d’Amore.