Farinelli, was the stage name of Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. Broschi was born into a family of musicians. Unlike many castrati, who came from poor families, Farinelli was well-to-do, and was related to minor nobility on both sides of the family. Carlo had showed talent as a boy singer. Salvatore (his father) died unexpectedly in 1717 and it seems likely that the consequent loss of economic security for the whole family provoked the decision, presumably taken by Riccardo (his older brother), for Carlo to transition. At the age of 15 he made his debut. Farinelli quickly became famous throughout Italy. In 1722, he first sang in Rome in Porpora’s Eumene and Flavio Anicio Olibrio, as well as taking the female lead in Sofonisba.
All these appearances were greeted with huge public enthusiasm and an almost legendary story arose. In 1724, Farinelli made his first appearance in Vienna and he spent the following season in Naples. In 1726, he also visited Parma and Milan, where Johann Joachim Quantz heard him and commented: “Farinelli had a penetrating, full, rich, bright and well-modulated soprano voice, with a range at that time from the A below middle C to the D two octaves above middle C. … His intonation was pure, his trill beautiful, his breath control extraordinary and his throat very agile, so that he performed the widest intervals quickly and with the greatest ease and certainty. Passagework and all kinds of melismas were of no difficulty to him. In the invention of free ornamentation in adagio he was very fertile.” Quantz is certainly accurate in describing Farinelli as a soprano, however, the singer also possessed an extraordinarily extensive low range where a tenor would be more “at home”.
Farinelli sang at Bologna in 1727, where he met the famous castrato Antonio Bernacchi, who gave him instruction in grazie sopraffine (“ultra-refined graces”). In 1728, Farinelli performed another concert before the Emperor in Vienna. During this period he could really do no wrong - loaded with riches and honours. In 1731, Farinelli visited Vienna for a third time. There he was received by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI, on whose advice he modified his style, singing more simply and emotionally. After further seasons in Italy, and another visit to Vienna, during which he sang in oratorios in the Imperial chapel, Farinelli came to London in 1734. Farinelli joined the Opera of the Nobility and made it financially solvent. He first appeared in Artaserse, Senesino had the part of a furious tyrant, and Farinelli that of an unfortunate hero in chains; but in the course of the first air, the captive so softened the heart of the tyrant, that Senesino, forgetting his stage-character, ran to Farinelli and embraced him.
Though Farinelli’s was still under contract in London, he received a summons to visit the Spanish court. Farinelli stopped at Paris on his way to Madrid, singing at Versailles to King Louis XV, who gave him his portrait set in diamonds. Arriving in Spain about a month later. The Queen believed that Farinelli’s voice might be able to cure the severe depression of her husband, King Philip V. On 25 August 1737, Farinelli was named chamber musician to the king, and criado familiar, or servant to the royal family. He never sang again in public. Farinelli became a royal favourite and very influential at court. In 1738 he arranged for an entire Italian opera company to visit Madrid. On the accession of Philip’s son, Ferdinand VI, Farinelli’s influence became even greater. The relationship between singer and monarchs was personally close. He also was officially received into the ranks of the nobility, being made a Knight of the Order of Calatrava in 1750, an honour of which he was enormously proud. He retired to Bologna, where in 1732 he had acquired a property and citizenship.
Girolamo Bacchini (also known as Fra Teodoro del Carmine) was an Italian castrato, composer, writer on music, and Roman Catholic priest who flourished during the late 16th century and early 17th century. Bacchini was a carmelite monk who was highly active in church circles in Mantua from the late 1580s into the early part of the 17th century. During the 1580s he composed numerous masses for the Palatine church of Santa Barbara at the Ducal palace, Mantua which had been built by the then reigning Duke of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga. After Guglielmo’s death in 1587, he continued to serve as a musician for the Mantuan Court and was active in Mantuan church circles up into the first few years of the 17th century. In 1589 a book consisting of several of Bacchini’s masses for 5 or 6 voices was published in Mantua. He was also the author of a treatise on music which is now lost.
He became a frequent performer in entertainments for the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua in the 1590s. In 1594 he traveled with the Duke to Regensburg where he performed for Philipp von Bayern, the Bishop of Regensburg. In 1595 he accompanied the Duke on his first campaign against the Ottoman Empire in southern Hungary; a trip which also included the company of composer Claudio Monteverdi and poet Giambattista Marino. It is speculated that Bacchini sang the role of Euridice in the world premiere of Moneteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the court of Prince Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua in 1607. This is based on a 1608 letter to Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua which refers to “that little priest who performed the role of Euridice in the Most Serene Prince’s Orfeo”.
There is currently no available photo or artwork of Bacchini.
Giusto Fernando Tenducci was a soprano (a castrato also with the stage name Senesino) opera singer and composer, who passed his career partly in Italy but chiefly in Britain. Born in Siena in about 1736, Tenducci became a castrato and was trained at the Naples Conservatory. In 1753, when he was about seventeen, Tenducci made his professional opera debut in Venice, as Gasparo in Ferdinando Bertoni’s Guinevere. In 1757 and 1758 he was active at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. From 1758 to 1765 he was in London, where he was heard at both the King’s Theatre and the Royal Opera House. He then sang in Ireland, Scotland and Italy. In 1765 in Dublin he met Dorothea Maunsell.
Tenducci married 15-year old Dora Maunsell in 1766. The marriage was later annulled on the grounds of non-consummation; but Giacomo Casanova claimed in his autobiography that Dora gave birth to two children. In 1768 he returned to London from Edinburgh, where he remained for almost the rest of his life. He taught singing to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Paris in 1777-1778. Impressed with his teacher’s singing abilities, Mozart wrote a concert aria for him which is now lost. He returned to Italy just months before his death in January 1790. Two portraits of Tenducci were painted by Thomas Gainsborough - one is now in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham, the other was sold from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent.
Domenico Mustafà was an Italian castrato singer, composer and choir director. He was born in the commune of Sellano, province of Perugia and became a famous soprano castrato with the Cappella Sistina in the Vatican. He was particularly admired for his performances of Handelian music. At his prime Mustafà possessed a voice of superior strength and beauty, and he mastered the thrills and coloraturas to the utmost perfection. As a composer, his most famous works were “Miserere” and “Tus es Petrus secundum magnum”. Admitted to the Cappella Sistina in Rome as a chorister in 1848 at 19 years old, he soon became famous for his singing, intelligence and gifts as a composer. In 1855 he made his debut as a composer in a “Miserere” for six voices, with high acclaim. Five years later, in 1860, he was appointed as choir director by the pope Leo XIII.
Domenico was nominated as a possible candidate, and finally elected, for the post of “Direttore Perpetuo” of the Sistine Chapel in 1878. However, even before then, he was already involved in directing the Chapel after the death of its former director Giuseppe Baini. Also, he was an honored lifetime member and president of the musical organization “Società Musicale Romana” in Rome. A teacher as well, he gave music lessons to the famous French soprano Emma Calvé in 1892. Calvé, after hearing Mustafà perform the thrill, described it as: “strange, sexless, superhuman, uncanny.”
In person Mustafà was mild, receptive and talkative — he often used to add a joke or two or an anecdote during a conversation. He was highly praised for his intelligence and deep insights into the musical aspects. Being a perpetual director of the Sistine Chapel, he nevertheless decided to withdraw in 1902 on the grounds of high age — appointing Lorenzo Perosi as his successor for the post of director. He then retired to a luxurious villa in Montefalco where he spent the rest of his life and was occasionally visited by his friends and relatives. Mustafà’s role as a director in the Sistine Chapel is considered to be of great importance, and a book about his life was written by Alberto de Angelis and released in 1926.