Francesco Benucci

(b. 1745)

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(b c1745; d Florence, 5 April 1824). Italian bass. He sang at Pistoia in 1769, then more widely in Italy, appearing as the leading character buffo in Venice (1778–9), and singing in Milan (1779–82) with great success and in Rome (1783–4). He first appeared in Vienna in 1783 and became the leading member of the celebrated opera buffa company there, creating Rosmondo in Stephen Storace's Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), Tita in Martín y Soler's Una cosa rara (1786) and four Salieri roles including Blasio (La scuola de’ gelosi, 1783), Trofonio (La grotta di Trofonio, 1785) and the title role in Axur (1788). Described by W. A. Mozart as ‘particularly good’ (letter of 7 May 1783), he sang Figaro at the première of Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Leporello in the first Vienna performance of Don Giovanni (1788), when Mozart composed an extra duet for him, and Guglielmo in the première of Così fan tutte (1790). Mozart also intended him to sing the role of Bocconio in the unfinished Lo sposo deluso. In 1789 he went to London, where he sang Bartolo in Giovanni Paisiello's Il barbiere di Siviglia and appeared in Giuseppe Gazzaniga's La vendemmia opposite Nancy Storace, with whom he had sung in Vienna. They introduced the first piece from any Mozart opera to be heard on the London stage, the duet ‘Crudel! perchè finora’ from Figaro. Benucci returned to Vienna later in 1789, remaining until 1795. He helped establish the success of Paisello's La molinara in Vienna when he sang the role of Pistofolo in 1790. His last great triumph was to create Count Robinson in Domenico Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto in 1792. He had a round, beautifully full voice, more bass than baritone; probably he was the finest artist for whom Mozart wrote, and as a buffo he outshone his contemporaries as singer and actor.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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