BBC Music Magazine

Auld Reekie castrato


A superstar fugitive who became an honorary Scot, Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci (above) was born poor in Siena in the 1730s, castrated as a child and became worldfamou­s for his fabulous soprano voice. But a sex scandal made him infamous. In 1766 he married his 15-year-old student in Ireland, and because he was a castrato the marriage was technicall­y illegal. He escaped imprisonme­nt by fleeing to Edinburgh. A flamboyant, high-spending, law-dodging Italian eunuch in the sombre streets of Enlightenm­ent Scotland? Turns out Tenducci was a hit. He sang regularly at the Edinburgh Musical Society, whose members were mostly freemasons. Catholic superstar fugitive seduces the masons: just another Edinburgh anomaly.

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