The son of a Naples bookseller, Nicola Porpora won early favour with the Habsburg rulers of the city and then with the Portuguese ambassador. His operas were performed with success also in Vienna, followed by performances in Rome. After a period spent in Venice Porpora moved in 1733 to London, where his new opera Arianna in Nasso (‘Ariadne on Naxos’) opened the first season of the Opera of the Nobility, set up in opposition to the company with which Handel was concerned. In 1736 he returned to Venice, where in 1742, after another period in Naples, he became maestro di coro at the Ospedale della Pietà, the institution where Vivaldi had been employed for so many years. His next employment was in Dresden, and then from 1752 he lived in Vienna, where the young Haydn became his pupil, assistant and valet. In 1760 he returned to Naples, where he died in 1768.
Porpora was a prolific and greatly esteemed composer of opera, writing in a contemporary style that reflected his own abilities as a singing teacher.