Baldassare Ferri, castrato opera singer

On this day in history: Birth of Castrato Singer Baldassare Ferri

History of Italy News

On 9th December 1610, in Perugia, Umbria, the renowned castrato singer Baldassare Ferri was born. Possessing a remarkable soprano voice, Ferri garnered acclaim from fellow musicians and Europe’s aristocracy.

Commencing his musical journey as a chorister in Orvieto at the age of 11, serving Cardinal Crescenzi, Ferri later studied under Vincenzo Ugolini of Perugia in Rome, the maestro of the Cappella Giulia.

Secured by Prince Wladislaus of Poland for King Sigismund III’s court, Ferri participated in musically infused dramas. He continued his service when the prince ascended to the throne as King Wladislaus IV Vasa in 1632.

Later, Ferri relocated to Vienna, joining Emperor Ferdinand III’s service, followed by performing for Emperor Leopold I. His renowned voice earned accolades from European aristocrats and royal families, leading to various honours and titles. Recognising Ferri’s musical prowess, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, an ardent music patron and composer, was captivated to the extent of hanging a portrait in his bedroom, bestowing the title “Baldassare Ferri, Re dei Musici” (King of Musicians).

Acknowledged as a Knight of St Mark of Venice, Ferri received sonnets lauding his talent and even journeyed to Sweden during a war with Poland, thanks to a temporary armistice arranged for his safe passage through battle lines, to sing before Queen Christina, a devoted music patron.

Described as handsome with a tall stature, Ferri’s vocal qualities were praised by contemporaneous musicians. His voice was noted for its limpid quality, impeccable intonation, expressive singing, and nearly inexhaustible breath control, marking him as a legendary figure in the annals of Italian opera singing.

Returning to Italy five years before his death in 1680, Ferri enjoyed a comfortable retirement, thanks to his accumulated wealth. In a generous act, he bequeathed 600,000 scudi to charity in his will.

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