In cathedrals and abbeys, one’s eye is usually caught by the bold, audacious tombs and memorials that beckon our attention, but behind the scenes, sometimes hidden by the furnishings, you may find something of much greater interest and intrigue. Tucked in a corner behind the hymn books of Bath Abbey, I came across the curious character Venanzio Rauzinni, renowned male soprano and assumed by many to be a ‘castrato’. He was born in Rome in 1746 but apparently, having travelled throughout Europe and visited many a lady’s bed, he set up home in Bath for the best part of 30 years, and became famous not only for his fine soprano voice, but also for his teaching.
But the teasing questions, raised by recent researchers, have pointed to the nature of his sexuality. It was believed, at the time, that he was a member of the ‘castrato’ class (baby boys were sometimes castrated at birth, on the instructions of choirmasters, so that many of them could play female roles at a time when women were not allowed on the stage). Hence the fine male soprano voice. But it would seem this ‘castrato’ had been well able to court the attentions of the opposite sex in several cities throughout Europe. So much so, that he was a much scandalised figure, hounded out of a number of cities. You might well ask: how does that work? Well, the short answer to that is: it shouldn’t.
So Rauzinni had either been in full possession of his ‘sexual faculties’ and had been blessed with a natural soprano voice, or the tales of his sexual exploits were just that…………tales.
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