Giordani, Tommaso (c.1733–1806), composer, was born at Naples, Italy, elder son among two sons and two daughters of Giuseppe Giordani, singer and librettist, and Antonia Giordani. When his father formed a small opera company he toured around Europe in the 1740s, where he continued his training as a musician. Together with his brother Francesco, a singer and dancer, and his sisters Nicolina, known as ‘La Spiletta’, and Marina, both singers, he performed at Covent Garden in London during the 1753–4 season, probably on the harpsichord. He developed an interest in composing; his first work was a comic opera, ‘La comediante fatta cantatrice’, which had its debut at Covent Garden on 12 January 1756.
In 1764 Giordani visited Ireland for the first time when his family was invited by Henry Mossop (qv) to perform at the Smock Alley Theatre. He remained in Dublin for three years, and began properly his career as a composer. Failure greeted his first venture, a production of ‘The beggar's opera’ in which he had italianised the music; he missed the irony that the work was intended as a satire of Italian opera. But he had some success with ‘Fulminone, or The lover with two mistresses’, a burletta which was first performed on 7 January 1765. Productions of ‘The enchanter’ and ‘The maid of the mill’ added to his popularity and he remained as composer-in-residence at Smock Alley after his family moved to Crow St. On 7 May 1766 his dramatic work ‘L'eroe cinese’ was staged in Dublin; it is credited with being the first opera seria to be performed in Ireland. Engaged by the theatre at Crow St., he staged only one opera there, ‘Phyllis at court’ (1767). Accused of plagiarism, he decided to leave the country and return to London. For the next sixteen years he resided in England, working for the Italian Opera at the King's Theatre, and composing operas and various pieces of incidental music. He also wrote songs for ‘The critic’ by R. B. Sheridan (qv), which was performed at Drury Lane in 1779.
His reputation restored, and past indiscretions forgotten, Giordani decided to tour Ireland in 1783. With the great Jewish-English tenor Michael Leoni he staged a brilliant series of concerts at the Rotunda before opening his own theatre at Capel St., which he called ‘the English Opera House’. He had a small company, and staged works in English: for example, ‘The haunted castle’, with librettos by minor writers and music by Giordani himself. The company was successful, but not profitable, and the venture ended in bankruptcy in July 1784. He fled to England pursued by the bailiffs, but managed to arrange a deal with his creditors in October, which enabled him to return to Ireland. Around this time he married a daughter of Tate Wilkinson, the manager at Crow St. This gave him new opportunities and he was named musical director of the theatre in 1787, after the Smock Alley Theatre, where he had worked under Richard Daly (qv), closed. A subscriber to the Irish Musical Fund from 1787, he was elected its president in 1794. To celebrate the recovery of George III in 1789 he was commissioned to write a Te Deum by Archbishop John Thomas Troy (qv), and this was performed at the Francis St. chapel in April. Despite his successes in both theatres, Giordani grew disillusioned with composing and his comic opera ‘The cottage festival, or A day in Wales’ (1796) was his final work. This was notable for having the barrister and informer Leonard MacNally (qv) as its librettist.
Giordani was a mediocre composer unless he had specific singers in mind; his career was marred by allegations of plagiarism, and his work frequently displayed flaws in technique and composition. Authorship of the popular song ‘Caro mio ben’ was attributed to him, but it may have been written by Giuseppe Giordani (no relation) or even his father. A successful music teacher, Giordani helped train the composers Thomas Simpson Cooke (qv) and John Field (qv). He died in February 1806 at his home at Great Britain St., Dublin.