The Kennedy Center

Giovanni Paisiello


Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) was one of the most successful and influential opera composers of his day. Most of his 80-plus operas are comic, simple, and direct, getting to the plot more quickly and keeping it moving–a style different from previous composers. He is today primarily known for writing, in 1782, the “other” Barber of Seville opera (the more famous version, composed by Gioacchino Rossini, premiered a few months before Paisiello’s death). His colorful scoring and warm melodies influenced Mozart, who composed his “Marriage of Figaro” as a sequel to Paisiello’s “Barber.”
Paisiello was trained in Naples, Italy and established himself there as a leading comic opera composer. He was invited by Empress Catherine II of Russia to St. Petersburg in 1776. It was there he wrote his “Barber”—Il barbiere di Siviglia—which became known throughout Europe.
Paisiello later returned to Naples where he produced many of his best operas, including one called Nina. From that point (around 1790), he began composing serious operas.
Even though the popularity of Paisiello’s “Barber” initially hindered the success of Rossini’s version, soon Rossini’s “Barber” swept Paisiello’s from the stage. A long period ensued when Paisiello was nearly forgotten, but a 1960s recording of his “Barber” enabled the public to recognize its merits. It has regained a limited place in the operatic repertory.
Paisiello wrote a good deal of church music, including eight masses, and also composed motets, cantatas, oratorios, keyboard concertos, and string quartets.
Giovanni Paisiello