The Castrato and His Wife by Helen Berry

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The Castrato and his wife is a readable book that relies on scholarly detective work and strong narrative to tell this tragic tale. It presents fascinating insight into the world of opera....If you enjoy European history or if you are an opera fan, or if you enjoy reading strange-but-true stories...
-Guardian

Synopsis

The opera singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci was one of the most famous celebrities of the eighteenth century. In collaboration with the English composer Thomas Arne, he popularized Italian opera, translating it for English audiences and making it accessible with his own compositions which he performed in London's pleasure gardens. Mozart and J. C. Bach both composed for him. He was a rock star of his day, with a massive female following. He was also a castrato.

Women flocked to his concerts and found him irresistible. His singing pupil, Dorothea Maunsell, a teenage girl from a genteel Irish family, eloped with him. There was a huge scandal; her father persecuted them mercilessly. Tenducci's wife joined him at his concerts, achieving a status as a performer she could never have dreamed of as a respectable girl. She also wrote a sensational account of their love affair, an early example of a teenage novel. Embroiled in debt, the Tenduccis fled to Italy,
and the marriage collapsed when she fell in love with another man. There followed a highly publicized and unique marriage annulment case in the London courts. Everything hinged on the status of the marriage; whether the husband was capable of consummation, and what exactly had happened to him as a
small boy in a remote Italian hill village decades before.

Ranging from the salons of princes and the grand opera houses of Europe to the remote hill towns of Tuscany, the unconventional love story of the castrato and his wife affords a fascinating insight into the world of opera and the history of sex and marriage in Georgian Britain, while also exploring questions about the meaning of marriage that continue to resonate in our own time.
 

About Helen Berry

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Helen Berry is Reader in Early Modern History at Newcastle University. She is the author of numerous articles on the history of eighteenth-century Britain, and is the co-editor (with Elizabeth Foyster) of The Family in Early Modern England.
 
Published September 22, 2011 by OUP Oxford. 327 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Castrato and His Wife
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by GrrlScientist on Sep 26 2012

The Castrato and his wife is a readable book that relies on scholarly detective work and strong narrative to tell this tragic tale. It presents fascinating insight into the world of opera....If you enjoy European history or if you are an opera fan, or if you enjoy reading strange-but-true stories...

Read Full Review of The Castrato and His Wife | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Norman Lebrecht on Mar 01 2012

Ms. Berry recounts his story with the eye of a tabloid reporter, missing no scintilla of scandal yet maintaining our sympathy for the village boy who made the most of his circumscribed attributes.

Read Full Review of The Castrato and His Wife | See more reviews from WSJ online

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