Mezzo-soprano castrato Gaspare Pacchierotti was born on 21 May 1740 in Fabriano, Marche.
Details of his early life are scarce. He made his debut in Perugia under the stage name of Porfirio Pacchierotti during the carnival season of 1759, playing, as young castrati often did, a female role. He made appearances under his assumed name in Venice (1764) and Innsbruck (1765). He made his name performing at the Theatro San Carlo in Naples. In 1776 he left Naples and moved to the north. He famously appeared at the inauguration of the La Scala in Milan on 3 August 1778 in Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta.
He first arrived in London in 1778 and was widely acclaimed for his appearances at the King’s Thatre, Haymarket. His performances brought women to tears, including Susanna and her sister Fanny Burn
ey, the novelist, who thought the singing of ‘sweet Pacc’ divine. He showed himself a strong character during the anti-Catholic Gorden Riots of June 1780. He did not hide, walked the streets, and ignored the mob’s shouts of ‘No Popery!’ On 27 May 1784 Pacchierotti sang various arias by Handel at the centenary celebrations of the composer’s birth held in the London Pantheon. On his final performances in the capital he sang Haydn’s cantata Arianna a Naxos to the composer’s own piano accompaniment. By 1791 he was back in Italy where he continued to perform until four years before his death in October 1821 in Padua. Pacchierotti’s remains were exhumed in 2013 for a research project at the University of Padua to reconstruct his biological profile and understand how castration may have influenced body and voice.