Paisiello, Or Paesiello
operas naples rossini
PAISIELLO, or PAESIELLO, GIOVANNI (1741-1815), one of the most talented precursors of Rossini in the Italian school of musical composition, was born at Tarento, May 9, 1741. The beauty of his voice attracted so much attention that, in 1754, he was removed from the Jesuit college at Tarento to the Conservatorio di S. Onofrio at Naples, where he studied under Durante, and in process of time rose to the position of assistant master. For the theatre of the Conservatorio he wrote some intermezzi, one of which attracted so much notice that he was invited to write two operas, La Pmspilla and Il Mondo al Rovescio, for Bologna, and a third, Il Marchese di Tulipano, for Rome. His reputation being now firmly established, he settled for some years at Naples, where, notwithstanding the popularity of Piccini, Cimarosa, and Guglielmi, of whose triumphs he was bitterly jealous, he produced a series of highly successful operas, one of which, Cinese, made a deep impression upon the Neapolitan public. In 1776 Paisiello was invited by the empress Catherine II. to St Petersburg, where he remained for eight years, producing, among other charming works, his masterpiece, 11 Berbiere di Siviglia, which soon attained a European reputation. The fate of this delightful opera marks an epoch in the .history of Italian art ; for with it the gentle suavity cultivated by the masters of the 18th century died out to make room for the dazzling brilliancy of a later period. When, in 1816, Rossini set the same libretto to music, under the title of Almaviva, it was hissed from the stage ; but it made its way, nevertheless, and under its true title, Il Berbiere, is now acknowledged as Rossini's greatest work, while Paisiello's opera is consigned to oblivion, - a strange instance of poetical vengeance, since Paisiello himself had many years previously endeavoured to eclipse the fame of Pergolesi by resetting the libretto of his famous intermezzo, La serve padrona.
Paisiello quitted Russia in 1784, and, after producing 11 Re Teodoro at Vienna, entered the service of Ferdinand IV. at Naples, where he composed many of his best operas, including Xing and La Molinara. After many vicissitudes, resulting from political and dynastic changes, lie was invited to Paris (1802) by Napoleon, whose favour he had won five years previously by a march composed for the funeral of General Hoche. Napoleon treated him munificently, while cruelly neglecting two far greater composers, Cherubini and Mehtd, to whom the new-favourite transferred the hatred he had formerly borne to Cimarosa, Guglielmi, and Piccini. But he entirely failed to conciliate the Parisian public, who received his opera Proserpine so coldly that, in 1803, he requested and with some difficulty obtained permission to return to Italy, upon the plea of his wife's ill health.
On his arrival at Naples Paisiello was reinstated in his former appointments by Joseph Bonaparte and Murat, but he no longer enjoyed the brilliant reputation for the attainment of which he had so industriously laboured. He had taxed his genius beyond its strength, and was unable to meet the demands now made upon it for new ideas. His prospects, too, were precarious. The power of the Bonaparte family was tottering to its fall ; and Paisiello's fortunes fell with it. The death of his wife, in 1815, tried him severely. His health failed rapidly. His constitutional jealousy of the popularity of others was a continual source of worry and vexation. And on June 5, 1815, he died, a disappointed man, notwithstanding his extraordinary successes and well-earned fame.
It is impossible to believe that even the best of Paisiello's operas would be listened to at the present moment with patience, yet they abound with melodies the graceful beauty of which is still warmly appreciated. Perhaps the best known of these charming airs is the famous Nel cor from La Molinaro, immortalized by Beethoven's delightful variations. The greatest singers of the time spread the fame of this and other similar effusions throughout the length and breadth of Europe. The part of Nina conduced to one of Pasta's most splendid triumphs ; and of the ninety-four operas which Paisiello is known to have composed not one can be said to have been unsuccessful. His church music was very voluminous, comprising one hundred and three masses, besides many smaller works ; he also produced fifty-one instrumental compositions of more or less importance, and many detached pieces. MS. scores of many of his operas were presented to the library of the British Museum by the late Signor Dragonetti.