Magazine article Musical Times

Post Mortem: New Evidence on the Location of Guadagni's Tomb

Magazine article Musical Times

Post Mortem: New Evidence on the Location of Guadagni's Tomb

Article excerpt

I concluded my biography of Gaetano Guadagni with the words, 'He was buried in the north aisle of the Santo. The exact location of his grave is not recorded.'1 Since then a new archival source has come to light, which not only reveals the site of the grave, but provides a description of the ceremony. The information is contained in the Libro de Morti: Necrologium cioe Libro overo Registro de Morti Sepolti nella Chiesa, e ne Chiostri del nostro Convento del Santo Principia dallAnno 1647 segue fin Vanno 1797, a manuscript register for the relevant years of those buried in the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua (the 'Santo').2

Some six weeks before his death, Guadagni made his will, and set out his wishes for the conduct of his funeral. This document is one of very few to survive in the singer's own handwriting, still perfectly legible though rendered somewhat laboured by the stroke he suffered seven years earlier (fig. i, overleaf). The stroke robbed him of his ability to enunciate words, though leaving him able to sing wordlessly, a phenomenon that drew crowds to hear him play his part in the services in St Anthony's, in which he continued up to his death.3 In this document, Guadagni charged his doctor, acting as his executor, and his nephew, his only heir, to make the following funeral arrangements:

I wish my body to be interred in the church of the glorious St Anthony, beseeching the noble fathers to receive me into that church and grant me burial in the most suitable tomb. I charge my executor and heir to fulfil faithfully my wishes as to the conduct of my funeral, namely to disburse two lire to each of twelve priests, and one lira each for a candle; also four lire to the four institutions for the (male and female) Orphans and the (male and female) Mendicants, with the customary alms and with a candle worth half a lira to each member of the institutions. In addition, two candles are to be given to each of twelve religious fathers of St Anthony's, and round my bier eight torches, at four lire each, borne by eight priests.4

Guadagni seems to have been as occupied in computing the cost of his funeral as in imagining the solemn ritual.

He died on Sunday 11 November 1792 and was buried the following day. Two obituaries recorded 'the melancholy end of a great theatrical celebrity'.5 The account of the ceremony in the Libro de Morti is strikingly similar to the ceremony envisaged in his will:

The body of Signor Gaetano Guadagni, Knight of San Marco, was brought to our church; he had been employed for many years in the service of this church as soprano, at a salary of 400 ducats with no duties beyond being present and singing at just four holy days a year. The body was accompanied to the holy site of the institution for the Orphans by twelve of our religious order and twelve parish priests from the parish of San Lorenzo. …

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