The theatre was extremely popular and appreciated. In the meantime, however, political conditions were changing in Bergamo, as in all northern Italy. Chased away by the reaction of Austria, Prussia and Russia to Napoleonic domination, the French troops left the city in 1814 and the Austrian troops took their place. This marked the beginning of Austrian rule, which lasted 45 years.
In 1830, the administration of the Theatre passed to the entrepreneur Bartolomeo Merelli, who had studied music with Donizetti. It was Merelli who hosted Vincenzo Bellini in 1830 with La straniera and in 1831 with Norma, supervising the staging himself. It was Merelli’s merit again if Gaetano Donizetti’s operas were performed in Bergamo in large numbers from 1837 onwards, helping to establish the fortunes of the composer from Bergamo. In 1840 Bergamo paid tribute Donizetti for the first time in a public event (which would also be the last, while he was alive). Donizetti was present in the theatre for the performance of his operaL’esule di Roma, performed by famous singers such as Domenico Donzelli, Eugenia Tadolini and Ignazio Marini. Chases of the Maestro’s carriage are said to have taken place on that occasion. Donizetti returned to Bergamo for good in 1847 and died there the following year (8th April 1848).
The musical taste of the time was very demanding, several philharmonic societies were founded in the city, the first city band was created, and new theatres opened. Great singers made a name for themselves at the Riccardi. An event of the period was the debut of Giuseppe Verdi, who was present in the theatre, withErnani (1844). (1844). The outcome of the performance, directed by Verdi himself, was positive. Verdi returned to the Riccardi to oversee the staging of Rigoletto in 1854, for its “premiere” in Lombardy.
Not only musical works were performed at the Riccardi Theatre. There were ballets, comedies and shows of various kinds. Among the prose actors on the Riccardi stage were the greatest Italian performers of the time, such as Giuseppe Salvini, Francesco Augusto Bon, Luigi Romagnoli, all heads of families of great theatrical performers, and then Romualdo Mascherpa, Giuseppe Moncalvo, Maddalena Pelzet, Adelaide Ristori, Gustavo Modena. There were also vaudevilles (ancestors of the operetta) and scientific marvels such as the Agioscope and the Miriafanorama, systems of luminous projections that in a certain sense anticipated the cinematograph in 1846.