Paisiello, Giovanni, famous Italian composer; b. Roccaforzata, near Taranto, May 9,1740; d. Naples, June 5, 1816. He studied at the Jesuit school in Taranto, and then at the Cons, di S. Onofrio in Naples (1754–63). He began his career as an opera composer by writing works for the Marsigli-Rossi Theater in Bologna in 1764. He settled in Naples in 1766, and proceeded to write over 40 operas during the next decade. Outstanding works from this period include Le finte contesse (Rome, Feb. 1766), L’idolo cinese (Naples, 1767), and La Frascatana (Venice, 1774). In 1776 he was invited to Russia, where he was appointed maestro di cappella to the Empress Catherine II in St. Petersburg. He composed one of his most celebrated operas there, II Barbiere di Siviglia (Sept. 26, 1782), which remained popular in Italy until the appearance of Rossini’s masterpiece in 1816. In 1783 Ferdinand IV of Naples made him compositore della musica de’ drammi. In 1784 he left Russia for Naples, making a stop in Vienna, where he brought out one of his finest scores, II Re Teodoro in Venezia (Aug. 23,1784). His success in Naples led to his additional appointment in 1787 as maestro della real camera, in which capacity he was responsible for secular music at the court. Between 1784 and 1799 he composed several noteworthy operas, including Le gare generose (Naples, 1786), L’amore contrastato (Naples, 1788), Nina, o sia La Pazza per amore (Caserta, June 25, 1789), and I Zingari in fiera (Naples, Nov. 21, 1789). After Republican troops took control of Naples in Jan. 1799, Paisiello was named maestro di cappella nazionale by the new government on May 4, 1799. However, with the return of the Royalists in June 1799, he fell into disfavor with the court; was eventually granted a pardon, and restored to his posts on July 7, 1801. Ferdinand subsequently allowed him to serve as Napoleon’s maitre de chapelle in Paris from April 1802 until his return to Naples in Aug. 1804. He was made a member of the Légion d’honneur in 1806. He was further honored with membership in the Institut, taking the place of the deceased Haydn in 1809. After Joseph Bonaparte became King of Naples in 1806, Paisiello was appointed director of secular and sacred music at the court; he continued to hold these positions under Joachim Murat, Joseph’s successor as King (1808–15); he also served as one of the directors of the new college of music (1807–13). In 1815 Ferdinand returned to the throne, and Paisiello lost all of his posts with the exception of that of maestro della real cappella.
Paisiello’s success as a composer of comic operas equaled that of Piccini and Cimarosa. He was extraordinarily prolific; his operas alone number over 90, a few of which have been revived in the 20th century. Although he employed instrumental effects that were rare in Italy, he avoided the over-elaborate numbers in his operas which marked the works of many of his contemporaries, obtaining his results by melodic invention, and by the grace, beauty, and dramatic faithfulness of his conceptions.
I. Arnold, G. P.: Seine kurze Biographie (Erfurt, 1810); J. Le Sueur, Notice sur P. (Paris, 1816); Quatremère de Quincy, Notice historique de P. (Paris, 1817); G. de Dominicis, Saggio su la vita del Cavalier Don G. P. (Moscow, 1818); F. Schizzi, Della vita e degli studi di G. P. (Milan, 1833); C. Pupino, P. (Naples, 1908); S. Panareo, P. in Russia (Trani, 1910); U. Prota-Giurleo, P. ed i suoi primi trionfi a Napoli (Naples, 1925); A. Cametti, P. e la corte di Vienna (Rome, 1929); G. Speziale, G. P. (Naples, 1931); E. Faustini-Fasini, L’ultima opera di P, I pittagorici (Taranto, 1937); idem, Opere teatrali, oratori e cantate di G. P. (Bari, 1940); A. Ghislanzoni, G. P.: Valutazioni critiche rettificate (Rome, 1969); J. Hunt, G. P.: His Life as an Opera Composer (N.Y., 1975); M. Robinson and U. Hoffmann, G. P.: A Thematic Catalogue of His Music (2 vols., Stuyvesant, N.Y., 1991, 1994).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
Church and opera composer of early classical style;b. Taranto, Italy, May 9, 1740; d. Naples, June 5, 1816. As a youth he studied at the conservatory of S. Onofrio in Naples; he then taught there while composing his first music. At first he wrote only sacred music, but later he became extremely successful in opera, composing more than 100 works in this form. He spent eight years (1776–84) at the court of Catherine II at St. Petersburg, Russia, producing there his most famous opera, The Barber of Seville (1782). He later held the post of maestro di cappella at the court of Naples until he left in 1799 for political reasons. He was Napoleon's favorite composer and became his maître de chapelle in Paris 1802; but after an unsuccessful struggle to please the Paris public, he resumed his position at Naples under Joseph Bonaparte a year later. His sacred music includes, among other works, 30 Masses with orchestra; several Masses for varying combinations; a Requiem scored for two choruses, orchestra, and organ; 40 motets; a Miserere; a Magnificat; and an oratorio on the Passion. Like his operas, these have the florid arias and grandiose choruses of the period, but also reveal the natural melodic beauty that characterizes his best work.
Bibliography: a. loewenberg, "Paisiello's and Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia," Music and Letters 10 (London 1939) 157–167. h. v. f. somerset, "Giovanni Paisiello," ibid. 18 (1937) 20–35. a. mondolfi, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 10:639–647. j. l. hunt, "The Life and Keyboard Works of Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816)" (Ph.D. diss. University of Michigan, 1973). k. b. mohr, "Giovanni Paisiello's Gli astrologi immaginari : An Urtext Edition" (Ph.D. diss. Florida State University, 1969). d. poultney, "Giovanni Paisiello" in International Dictionary of Opera, 2 v. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 979–982. s. willier, "Nina, ossia La Pazza per amore (Nina, or Mad for Love )" ibid., 936–37. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996). m. f. robinson, "Giovanni Paisiello" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 14:97–102. m. f. robinson and u. hofmann, Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816), A Thematic Catalogue of His Music, Vol. 1: The Dramatic Works (Hillsboro 1991). n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992).
[w. c. holmes]