Giovanni Paisiello painted by
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun
Giovanni Paisiello was born on May 9th, 1740 in Roccaforzata, a small town near Taranto in the Apulian region of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The son of a veterinarian, he received his first instruction in music at the local Jesuit school, which he attended for eight years. The boy's musical talent soon attracted the attention of Don Girolamo Carducci, who, in 1754, succeeded in having the youth attend the Conservatorio di S. Onofrio, Naples' preeminent institution for musical training.
When Napoleon Bonaparte's forces invaded the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1798 Paisiello did not retreat to Sicily with the Bourbon court. He "reluctantly" accepted the new position of maestro di cappella nazionale to the ill-fated Parthenopean Republic. However, after Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo's Sanfedesti Crusade, and a general amnesty granted to Republican sympathizers by the Bourbons, Paisiello was readmitted into the Neapolitan court.