Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1749-1771 - Haymarket (Westminster)

Castrato singer Gaetano Guadagni was born at Lodi on 16 February 1728. He joined the cappella of Sant’Antonio in Padua in 1746. His operatic debut in Venice that year created controversy. He was dismissed from his position in Padua by 1748, and soon after appeared in London as a member of the comic (buffo) opera company of Giovanni Francesco Crosa (known as Dr Croza) at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. He was rapidly taken up in theatrical and musical circles in the capital. For performances in 1750 Handel rewrote three arias in the Messiah for him and he took part in revivals of Samson.

The one role that Guadagni actually created for Handel was Didymus in Theodora. In 1755, he was engaged by David Garrick to sing in an English opera The Fairies by Handel’s sometime amanuensis, John Christopher Smith. In the summer of 1769, he became embroiled in the financial problems involving his impresario George Hobart, manager of the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. He left the company there, and took part in unlicensed performances of Mattia Vento’s Artaserse, sponsored by the former singer Theresa Cornelys at her home, Carlisle House, in Soho Square: for these he was fined and threatened with Bridewell Prison. He performed his final London season in 1770/1. He returned to Padua where he died in November 1792. His name is remembered for singing the role of Orpheus at the premiere of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice in 1762.

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