The modern castrato: Gaetano Guadagni and the coming of a new operatic age (Oxford University Press; also available through Oxford Scholarship Online) is the first full-length biography of Gaetano Guadagni, who will ever go down in history as the creator of the title role of Orpheus in Gluck’s seminal reform opera of 1762. His career and character present many puzzles. Did he reject the cult of virtuosity because he was convinced by Gluck’s reform theories, or was it because he couldn’t manage the demanding ornamentation cultivated by Farinelli’s generation? Did he refuse to give encores because of his commitment to dramatic integrity, or because he liked to annoy managements? Did his remarkable identification with a single role accidentally jump start repertory opera? Was he generous to a fault, bailing out impecunious nobility and funding civic projects in Padua, or a spendthrift who spent his last weeks of life pawning the gold snuffboxes he accumulated during his career? His biography is a story worth telling.
The book has an associated website which contains the complete scores of Guadagni’s compositions, and a performance of one of them.