Donato Renzetti was born in the province of Chieti, Italy and he studied composition and conducting at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. In 1976 he won the "Ottorino Respighi" prize of the Cini Foundation in Venice.
In 1978 he was awarded the bronze medal "Ernest Ansermet" in Geneva and in the same year he made his debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in a symphonic concert and subsequently he conducted Pierrot Lunaire by Schönberg and Histoire du Soldat by Stravinsky with the same orchestra.
In 1980 he won the "Cantelli" International Competition and subsequently he conducted Verdi's Requiem in Salzburg, Manfred by Schumann at the Teatro alla Scala and he collaborated with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, the R.I.A.S. Orchestra from Berlin, and the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra.
In 1981 he conducted Rigoletto at the Arena di Verona, Il Duca d'Alba at the Teatro Comunale in Florence with the and L'Italiana in Algeri at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. The following year he was at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with Macbeth and conducted the first ever performance of Aida in Luxor in 1987. He performed many times in the principal theatres all over the world, such as: Opéra de Paris, Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, Grand Théâtre in Geneva, Staatsoper in Munich, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the San Francisco Opera, the Opera in Dallas, the Michigan Opera in Detroit, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Teatro Capitole in Toulouse, the Opéra de Lyon, the Glyndebourne Festival and in the principal Italian opera theatres, such as at Teatro alla Scala, at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome, Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, Teatro Regio in Turin and in Parma, and also at the Arena di Verona, at the Teatro Bellini in Catania, at the Macerata Opera, at the Teatro Comunale in Treviso and Modena, at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste.
He has directed Verdi's operas (Jérusalem, Don Carlo, Otello, Falstaff, Ernani, La Traviata, I Vespri siciliani, Un Ballo in maschera), Rossini's operas (Semiramide, Il Signor Bruschino, Le Comte Ory, L'Italiana in Algeri, La Donna del lago, Tancredi, Il Turco in Italia, Bianca e Falliero, Cenerentola), Mozart's Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Pasquale, L'Elisir d'amore and La Fille du régiment, Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi and La Sonnambula, Puccini's La Rondine, La Bohème, Turandot, Manon Lescaut e Gianni Schicchi, Gounod's Faust, Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, Wolf-Ferrari's I Quatro rusteghi and Azio Corghi's Gargantua in its first ever production in the world.