The Castrato and His Wife by Helen Berry

By Helen Berry

The opera singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci used to be some of the most recognized celebrities of the eighteenth century. Mozart and Bach either composed for him. He used to be not anything below a rock famous person of his day, with an immense woman following. He used to be additionally a castrato. starting from the salons of princes and the grand opera homes of Europe to the distant hill cities of Tuscany, Helen Berry's compelling account of the novel love tale of the castrato and his spouse deals interesting perception into the area of opera and the heritage of intercourse and marriage in Georgian Britain. Berry vividly describes how girls flocked to Tenducci's live shows and located him impossible to resist. certainly, his younger making a song scholar, Dorothea Maunsell, chanced on him so impossible to resist that she eloped with him. a massive scandal erupted and her father persecuted them mercilessly. Dorothea joined her husband at his live shows, reaching a standing she may well by no means have dreamed of as a decent woman. She additionally wrote a sensational account in their love affair, an early instance of a teenage novel. Embroiled in debt, the Tenduccis fled to Italy, and the wedding collapsed while she fell in love with one other guy. There a hugely publicized and particular marriage annulment case within the London courts. every little thing hinged at the prestige of the wedding, no matter if the husband was once able to consummation, and what precisely had occurred to him as a small boy in a distant Italian hill village many years ahead of. Telling the impressive tale of Tenducci for the 1st time, The Castrato and His spouse is either a thrilling learn and a perceptive statement at the which means of marriage, one who nonetheless resonates at the present time.

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58 The details of the procedure were corroborated by the other surviving witness to the operation, the servant Gaetano Mugni, who remembered that ‘I did actually hold fast [Tenducci] the son of the . . servant of the Commissary’ while he underwent the procedure. When pressed to say more about the details of the surgery, Mugni went on: I clearly saw that . . 59 The operation ‘being happily Executed’, the surgeon’s son Tomasso explained what happened next: ‘I . . by way of my . . Father did upon the successive Days after the Operation as often as was necessary go to the House where .

E In the year 1748, Pietro Massi, an itinerant barber-surgeon, arrived in Monte San Savino, the Tuscan hill town where Giusto Ferdinando 19 THE PIG MAN ARRIVES IN MONTE SAN SAVINO Tenducci was living with his family. Pietro’s journey could have brought him from Siena, sixty kilometres to the south-west, or from Perugia, in the south-east. It is less likely that he came from the south, from smaller settlements such as Montepulciano that produce famous wine, but slim pickings for a travelling surgeon in search of business.

By the mid-seventeenth century, a handbook on how to produce operas, Il Corago, had been printed in Venice. 18 Castrati were associated with a passionate style of singing, involving virtuosic trills, luxuriant sighs, and turns of phrase laden with pathos. 19 The classic da capo format of an aria (an opening section, a second section, then a reprise) provided the opportunity for the castrato to demonstrate his skill in the Baroque methods of ornamentation and extemporization. The most brilliant castrati were also known for their ability to introduce trills, producing a rapid effect that charmed the ear, supposedly like birdsong.

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