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01 October 2010

Bellino (1732 - ?1790) castrato impersonator.

Angiola Calori was raised in Bologna, where her mother took in lodgers. 

According to Giacomo Casanova's memoirs, she had an early affair with the renowned opera castrato Salimbeni, and that Salimbeni suggested that she pass as a castrato (a male soprano who had been  gelded before puberty to retain his vocal range) to avoid the attentions of men, and promised that he would get her a job with the Elector of Saxony, but died before he could do so. 

Nevertheless she became the castrato Bellino, and thus was able to sing on stage in the Papal States. She claimed that she had been able to pass the examination (carried out by an elderly priest) with the aid of an addition taped to her body in the appropriate position. 

Casanova felt that Bellino could not be a castrato, and seduced him to be sure. He refers to her as Teresa Lanti and claims that she raised his son as her supposed brother. 

Angiola apparently married Cirello Palesi circa 1760, and became a famous soprano. Some books, following Casanova, refer to her as Teresa Lanti Palesi. 

Heriot points out that Bellino's meeting with Casanova took place in 1744, but that Salimbeni's death is recorded as 1751. He thinks that Casanova perhaps confused two singers, and that the castrato in question was Giuseppe Appiani, who was born in the same year and place as Salimbeni, and who did die in Bologna in 1742. 

More to the point, if her birth year was 1732 as given by Willard Trask, it is highly unlikely that Bellino was an established performer in 1744 as she would have been only 12. 

Nettl assumes that the tale is largely false, but also tells us that a portrait of Teresa may be seen in a Milanese theatrical museum, but does not specify which one. 

Bellino is a character in the Simon Capet film, Evirati, 2000, and the 2005 Russell T Davies BBC mini-series Casanova, but not in the Hollywood film of 2005, nor in Fellini’s film of 1976.

  • Giacomo Casanova. Histoire de ma vie jusqu'à l'an 1797. Manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  • Giacomo Casanova edited by Willard Trask. History of my Life. New York, Harcourt, Brace & World 1966-1971 . Vol 2, Chps I, II, Vol 7 Chp VII, VIII, Vol 10 Chp IX, n29, Chp X, n36.
  • Paul Nettl. "Casanova and Music". The Music Quarterly. 15,2 Apr 1929: 212-232.
  • Angus Heriot,. The Castrati in Opera. New York: Da Capo, 1956. paperback. 1975: 277, 182.
  • "Giacomo Casanova". Wikipedia: L'enciclopedia libera. it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giacomo_Casanova.
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There is a continuing debate among Casanovistas to what extent Bellino  was a literary construct by Casanova, even if Angiola Calori was a real soprano.  I did consider putting this article in my arts blog, but on balance decided to go with a historical Bellino.  

The en.wikipedia article does not even mention Bellino, so I used the it.wikipedia article instead (with my husband’s assistance).  For a summary of the argument re whether Bellino is a literary construct see footnote 11 of the it.wikipedia article.

Not even the it.wikipedia site has an entry on Angiola Calori.

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