Giovanni Paisiello


Italian composer. Having received his musical education at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio in Naples, Paisiello established himself in opera buffa with Il ciarlone (Bologna, 1764) and I francesi brillanti (Bologna, 1764; Modena, 1764). Beginning with performances in Bologna and Modena, Paisiello soon reached audiences throughout Italy.
He returned to Naples in 1766 where he composed more opere buffe as well as some opere serie, such as Lucio Papirio dittatore (Naples, 1767), which was performed at the court theatre. Soon he was posing stiff competition for the other main opera buffa composer in Naples, Piccinni. After ten years in Naples, during which time he ran into trouble for trying to escape from an engagement of marriage, Paisiello moved to St Petersburg for eight years on the invitation of Catherine II.
In Russia, Paisiello wrote fewer operas than he had done in Naples, but those he did write, including Lucinda ed Amidoro (St Petersburg, 1777) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (St Petersburg, 1782), were popular enough to secure the position of Italian opera at the Russian court. Il barbiere also secured Paisiello the position of compositore della musica de' drammi at the royal court at Naples, where he returned in 1784, passing through Vienna (where this opera was a hit) to compose Il re Teodoro in Venezia (Vienna, 1784).
In 1785, he received a pension from King Ferdinand IV of Naples for which he was expected to write operas for Naples but nowhere else. Paisiello complied with these conditions for five years, during which he wrote one of his most popular operas, L'amor contrastato (Naples, 1788); but overwork soon forced him to renegotiate the terms of his pension. According to the new terms, Paisiello was allowed to write operas for theatres outside Naples, but his output was already slowing down, and he could take little advantage of the opportunity.
Paisiello supported the short-lived Parthenopaean Republic in 1799, which led to his fall from favour with the Neapolitan monarchy on their return to power later that year. Between 1801 and 1804, Paisiello worked for Napoleon in Paris, and he supported Napoleon's brother when he ousted Ferdinand IV from Naples in 1806. When Ferdinand regained power in 1815, Paisiello's relationship with the Bourbons was over, although he was able to retain his position thanks to the terms of the 1815 amnesty.