Giovanni Paisiello

Donald Macleod introduces the life and music of the Italian composer whose comic operas were the toast of some of the greatest world leaders of the day.

Giovanni Paisiello was one of the most popular opera composers of his day, feted all over Europe, not least by the greatest world leaders of the day including Napoleon, Catherine the Great and Emperor Joseph II. And yet, other than a handful of operatic arias, he's virtually unknown today. Donald Macleod looks at the life and times of this prolific composer who produced nearly 100 operas and made a significant contribution to the development of opera.

Paisiello was an ambitious young man - although he was already making a name for himself around Italy, he was determined to win the hearts and minds of the Neapolitan court, one of the most flourishing centres of musical excellence in Europe at that time. His comic operas - 'Don Chisciotte della Mancia', was one of the first to find favour with the King of Naples, and 'La Frascatana', launched his international career.

Paisiello didn't compose a great deal of instrumental music during his lifetime, but whilst in St Petersburg, he wrote a selection of keyboard music dedicated to two of his most prestigious pupils. Donald Macleod introduces the gracious Harpsichord Concerto in C major and the opera which was destined to become Paisiello's biggest hit, 'Il barbiere di Siviglia'.

In 1784, after eight years in Russia, Paisiello was at long last offered an appointment back in Naples, as court composer of dramatic music. On his way back home, Paisiello stopped off in Vienna, where he composed the opera 'Il re Teodoro a Venezia' for another great supporter of his, Emperor Joseph II.

Paisiello's final years took place against a backdrop of political turmoil. Around the turn of the century, his home town of Naples was twice invaded by the French. Paisiello opted to remain behind and work for the new republican state. When the King of Naples was restored to the throne the second time, he turned his back on Paisiello, leaving him in a state of poverty and disgrace for the remaining months of his life. Donald introduces music from Paisiello's final years.

Release date:


56 minutes


Role Contributor
ComposerGiovanni Paisiello

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