Niccolò Piccinni (1728 - 1800)

Born in Bari, Niccolò Piccinni studied in Naples, where he began his career as an opera composer. His international reputation took him in 1776 to Paris, where his first French opera, Roland, began the rivalry in Paris of supporters of Piccinni and of Gluck. Events in Paris, and the emergence of new rivals, led to his return to Naples, where he was placed under house arrest for four years following his daughter’s marriage to a Frenchman who was a suspected Jacobin. In 1798 he was able to move back to Paris, where he died before being able to benefit from a minor salaried post offered to him by Napoleon.

Piccinni was a prolific composer of operas, both comic and serious. His international fame came in particular from his La buona figliuola (‘The Accomplish’d Maid’), first staged in Rome in 1760, with a libretto by Goldoni that was based on Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela or Virtue Rewarded. A sequel, La buona figliuola maritata (‘The Good Girl Married’), was staged in Bologna in 1761. The earlier work was later put on at the Chinese court by the Jesuits, with the assistance of palace eunuchs. Piccinni was the leading composer of opera buffa in his time, and in Paris his tragédies lyriques led to new developments in the form, as Italian elements were absorbed into the French theatre.

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