Personalities | Giovanni Paisiello | Classical Era | Opera
Giovanni Paisiello scored his first successes in opera buffa. Compositions such as L’idolo cinese (‘The Chinese Idol’, 1767) were performed to enthusiastic audiences all over Italy. Paisiello’s talents rivalled those of other prominent composers, such as Cimarosa. Like Cimarosa and others, he caught the interest of Empress Catherine of Russia, who invited Paisiello to St Petersburg in 1776. Paisiello established the Italian opera tradition at Catherine’s court and wrote two operas in the same year – Lucinda ed Armidoro and Nitteti (both 1777). He also wrote his own ‘Figaro’ opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia. Opera audiences loved it, so much so that Rossini had considerable trouble breaking down popular prejudice against his own Il barbiere, written in 1816 – the year Paisiello died.
Paisiello returned to Italy in 1784 and while on the way, in Vienna, he composed Il re Teodoro in Venezia (‘King Theodore in Venice’, 1784). Paisiello was appointed maestro di cappella to King Ferdinand IV in Naples in 1783, and it was here that he wrote one of his best-loved operas, Nina (1789). Paisiello wrote more than 80 operas, including several in the opera buffa genre that he converted from light, somewhat inconsequential entertainment into something far more dramatic and emotional.
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