Gaetano Berenstadt


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(b Florence, 7 June 1687; bur. Florence, 9 Dec 1734). Italian alto castrato. His German father, Giorgio, was timpanist to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Gaetano apparently sang in 55 dramatic works, 33 of which were freshly composed, during his 27-year career. Since ‘Gaetano Beynstetter’ first appears in Giuseppe Vignola's revision of Le regine di Macedonia (1708, Naples), he might have originally studied at a Neapolitan conservatory. He also studied with Pistocchi in Bologna, and his next known appearances were at the feast honouring St Gaudentius in Novara (1711), where Pistocchi was the leading alto castrato, and in Luca Antonio Predieri's new opera La virtù in trionfo, o sia La Griselda (1711, Bologna). After appearing in two pasticcios at Florence during Carnival 1712, he obtained a post at the court of the Palatine elector in Düsseldorf, where he presumably sang cantatas and serenatas as well as roles in Johann Hugo von Wilderer's new Amalasunta (1713) and in the anonymous Annibale pacificatore (1715). After the elector, Johann Wilhelm, died in June 1716, Berenstadt went to London, where he performed in four operas during the first half of 1717: Argante in Rinaldo (a Handel revival for which three new arias were written for Berenstadt), Nicola Haym's adaptation of Alessandro Scarlatti's Pyrrhus and Demetrius, the pasticcio Vincislao, re di Polonia and Tito Manlio (a new work by Attilio Ariosti). During this London trip Berenstadt wrote the first of his 42 extant letters (1717–33) to Giacomo Zamboni, a Florentine merchant and diplomat who lived in London. Berenstadt's correspondence (especially his letter of 1724 to ‘maestro’ Pistocchi) reveals his great love of books and the visual arts. He bought and sold many rare books and unique works of art in order to earn money, and assembled a fine library including many incunabula. In 1718 Apostolo Zeno recommended him as a ‘worthy professor of music’ who had ‘an excellent knowledge of our best authors and superb taste in the realms of Italian poetry and eloquence’.


From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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