Catherine Bott visits Bath to mark the bicentenary of the death of one of its most famous adopted sons - celebrated 18th-century singer, teacher and composer, Venanzio Rauzzini.
Catherine Bott visits Bath to mark the bicentenary of the death of one of its most famous adopted sons - the celebrated 18th century singer, teacher and composer, Venanzio Rauzzini. Rauzzini was born near Rome, and spent the early part of his career wowing audiences in Venice, Munich and Vienna. When the 16-year old Mozart heard Rauzzini sing for the first time, he was so dazzled by its beauty and by his acting ability that he decided to write the lead role in his new opera for him. Rauzzini gave the premiere of Lucio Silla in Milan in 1772, and took the audiences there by storm - so much so, that Mozart wrote his now famous Exsultate Jubilate for him as a thankyou gift.
After several successful seasons at the King's Theatre in London, Rauzzini settled in Bath, where he remained for the last 30 years of his life, running the city's musical life, virtually single-handed. Rauzzini was incredibly good-looking and charming - in fact he was quite a hit with the ladies, especially those of the nobility. It's said that one Lady Gooch offered him a vast some of money to go off with her...which, incidentally, he declined!
The bass-baritone Raimund Herincx, who is something of a Rauzzini expert, believes that Rauzzini's prowess in the bedroom might suggest that he wasn't actually a castrato at all, but a natural male soprano - rather like Radu Marian and Michael Maniaci, whose voices both feature in the programme.
Catherine and Raimund visit Bath Abbey - the site of Rauzzini's grave and memorial plaque - and his beautiful house in the suburb of Widcombe, where Joseph Haydn visited him in 1794.