Italian composer, one of the most successful of the entire century, who until recently had the misfortune to be remembered mainly as the rival of Gluck in Paris. Piccinni studied in Naples, probably under Leo and Durante, and spent much of his career based there, composing church music as well as over 100 operas. From the first his style anticipates the high classicism of the end of the century. His first successes were in opera buffa, in which he introduced the multi-movement finale to Naples.
In the 1750 he obtained prestigious opera seria commissions in Naples (Zenobia, 1756) and Rome (Alessandro nell'Indie by Metastasio, 1758). His greatest triumph was the dramma giocoso La Cecchina (also known as La buona figluola), composed for Rome in 1760 to a libretto by Goldoni. From this time for a good years he dominated the stages of Naples and Rome; in 1773, however, he suddenly lost favour in Rome to Anfossi. By this time he had attracted attention in France, and in 1776 he came to terms with the Paris Opéra.
He worked mainly with Marmontel on adaptations of Quinault: Roland (see Orlando) in 1778 and Atys in 1780. Although he lost to Gluck in a war over their respective versions (not to the same libretto) of Iphigénie en Tauride Piccinni remained in Paris after Gluck had gone and scored a final triumph with Didon (1783), as well as running an opera buffa company and composing a couple of opéra comiques. He dropped out of fashion, however, and moved back to Italy with the onset of revolution, composing several more operas including an interesting semi-serious Griselda (Venice, 1793).