Personalities | Niccolò Piccinni | Classical Era | Opera
Le donne dispettose (‘The Spiteful Women’, 1754) was Piccinni’s first opera and was received with great enthusiasm. The eventual composer of some 120 works, he went on as he had begun, scoring several successes that climaxed with his masterpiece, La buona figliuola. Receiving its premiere in Naples, another of Piccinni’s operas, I viaggiatori (‘The Travellers’, 1775) was particularly well liked. At around this time there was resistance in France to the reforms promulgated by Gluck, who had introduced a mixture of music, dance and mime into opera among other ‘unwelcome’ innovations. Unfortunately, Piccinni became the stick with which this faction sought to beat Gluck. The Italian was invited to Paris in 1776, where he was obliged to enter a contest with Gluck, in which both of them wrote an opera, Iphigénie en Tauride. Piccinni lost out, and Gluck’s 1779 version eclipsed Piccinni’s, which was produced in 1781. After Gluck, another rival for Piccinni – Antonio Sacchini (1730–86) – arrived in Paris. Although the success of Piccinni’s Didon (1783) masked the truth, as a composer he was in decline. He has been mainly remembered for his opera buffa, his beautiful melodies and harmonies, and his skilful orchestration.
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