A son of poor fishermen, it was his destiny to be ‘fished out’ by Francesco Durante, who happened by chance to hear him sing and convinced his parents to support Sacchini in his studies at the Conservatorio Sant’Onofrio in Naples. He studied violin with Nicola Fiorenza and later became a student of Durante’s along with Nicola Piccinni and Pietro Guglielmi.
He moved to Rome in 1762, composed various comic and serious operas, in different cities, until his Alessandro nell’Indie, performed in 1768 in Venice met with enough success to earn him the position of Director at the city’s Conservatory. He reached London in 1772 and thanks to the influence of the renown castrato, Venenzio Rauzzini (who sang Lucio Silla and Exultate Jubilate by Mozart), some of his operas were performed at the Teatro Italiano and the Teatro Reale.
However, his love of luxury and the good life drove Sacchini to cross the channel for Paris (leaving on the other side numerous creditors). In Paris, Sacchini’s work did not meet with much favor, despite the protection granted him by Marie Antoinette because a polemical battle was raging between Gluckists and Piccinnists. The last minute cancellation of the performance of his opera Oedipe à Colone, a piece he wrote expressly for The Opérà, took away his will to live: Sacchini died the 6th of October, 1786.
The merits of his work – the smooth cantability of his Arias – clash with the negligence and rapidity of his writing, a defect common to many Italian opera writers of the time. Still, the fame he enjoyed while living was not in the least usurped, and even Rauzzini was inclined to claim as his some of Sacchini’s most beautiful Arias.