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Music sheet

Music sheet

  • Place of origin:

    London (engraved)

  • Date:

    1737-1738 (engraved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bickham, George Jnr. (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel engraving on paper

  • Museum number:

    S.1137-1986

  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

The hysteria aroused when the great castrato, Senesino, Francesco Bernardi (1680-1750) left London in 1730 is satirised in this songsheet. The great castrati were feted like rock stars in the early 18th century when women fainted or became hysterical with admiration during their performances. Many wore several miniature portraits of their heroes, like fans wearing the badges of their favourite group today. Not everyone succumbed, however. As early as 1702, in Tunbridge Walks at Drury Lane, a character exclaims ‘And pray what are your Town Diversions? To hear a parcel of Italian eunuchs like so many cats, squawl.'

The lyrics of the song include the lady lamenting Senesino as her: 'warbler celestial, sweet darling of fame.... a shadow of something, a sex without name', and bidding farewell to Farinelli and Cuzzoni, other stellar Italian opera singers of the day, and to the opera and the ball - because her darling is gone. In the engraving Senesino is seen at the docks about to take a boat from England while two servants carry a stretcher labelled ‘Ready Money’, containing the huge sums he earned for his performances. Italian singers earned more in London than anywhere else in Europe. Senesino built a fine house in Italy and inscribed over the door ‘twas the folly of the English had laid the foundation of it’. The huge success of the castrati set the fashion in London for opera sung in Italian by foreign stars.

Physical description

Sheet of printed music for The Ladies Lamentation for the Loss of Senesino, headed with an engraved illustration of a quayside scene

Place of Origin

London (engraved)

Date

1737-1738 (engraved)

Artist/maker

Bickham, George Jnr. (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Steel engraving on paper

Dimensions

Height: 38.4 cm, Width: 24.2 cm

Object history note

Castrati singers were very popular in the 18th century The first Italian castrato stars to visit England were Valentini and Nicolini. Nicolini sang the title role of Handel's Rinaldo in 1711. Other major stars included the soprano Francesca Cuzzoni and the castrato Nicola Brocshi or Farinelli.

Senesino was the stage name of Francesco Bernadi (?1680-?1750).

Descriptive line

Song sheet for The Loss of Senesino with words and music for keyboard and flute, and engraved heading by George Bickham Jnr., published in Bickham's The Musical Entertainer, 1737-1738.

Materials

Printing ink; Paper

Techniques

Engraving

Categories

Prints; Opera; Music; Satire

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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