At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

13 May 2019

Francesco Pistocchi – singer and composer

Child prodigy who wrote many operas and also taught


A 19th century bust of Pistocchi on display at the Biblioteca della Musica in Bologna.
A 19th century bust of Pistocchi on display at
the Biblioteca della Musica in Bologna.
Francesco Pistocchi, a singer who became known to audiences as Pistocchino, died on this day in 1726 in Bologna.

Pistocchi left the world many operas, oratorios and cantatas he had composed, which are now highly regarded for their melodic elegance and colourful harmony.

Born Francesco Antonio Mamiliano Pistocchi in Palermo in 1659, Pistocchi became a child prodigy because of his beautiful soprano voice. He began performing as a singer in public at the age of three and the first music he composed, Capricci puerili, was published when he was just eight years old.

Believed to have become a castrato, Pistocchi made regular appearances as a singer in Bologna’s cappella musicale at the Basilica of San Petronio, where his father was a violinist, from 1670 onwards.

He later had a brilliant opera career as a contralto, touring in Italy and Germany and serving at the court in Parma in the 1680s.

His opera, Il leandro, was premiered at Teatro alle Zattere in Venice in 1679.

The famous castrato Farinelli's teacher was a former pupil of Pistocchi
The famous castrato Farinelli's teacher was
a former pupil of Pistocchi 
In 1696 Pistocchi became Court Kapellmeister for the Duke of Ansbach in Germany. His operas, Il Narciso and Le pazzie d’amore e dell’interesse, were presented in Ansbach in the late 1690s and another of his works, I rivali generosi, was premiered in Reggio Emilia in 1710.

After Pistocchi returned to live in Italy in 1702 he was named virtuoso di camera e di cappella to Prince Ferdinand of Tuscany.

Towards the end of his life, Pistocchi taught singing in Bologna. Among his notable pupils were Antonio Bernacchi, a castrato, and Annibale Pio Fabri, a tenor. Bernacchi later taught the famous castrato, Farinelli. Through his students, and their further pupils, much of Pistocchi’s skill and knowledge was passed on to the famous singers of the 18th century.

He was elected president of the Accademia Filarmonica twice, in 1708 and 1710, but after his voice began to deteriorate, Pistocchi closed his singing school. He was ordained a priest in 1715 in the Oratorian Order founded by San Filippo Neri in Bologna.

Pistocchi died in Bologna in 1726.

A recording of Pistocchi’s Oratorio, Il Martirio di San Adriano, was released by Pan Classics in 2013.

The Basilica di San Petronio, with its unfinished facade, is the largest brick-built Gothic church in the world
The Basilica di San Petronio, with its unfinished facade, is
the largest brick-built Gothic church in the world
Travel tip:

The Basilica di San Petronio, where Pistocchi sang in the cappella musicale in the 1670s, is the main church of Bologna, located in Piazza Maggiore in the centre of the city. It is the largest brick-built Gothic church in the world. Building work began on the church in 1390 and it was dedicated to San Petronio, who had been the Bishop of Bologna in the fifth century. The facade was designed by Domenico da Varignana and started in 1538 by Giacomo Ranuzzi but was never finished. The main doorway was decorated by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena with scenes from the Old Testament on the pillars, eighteen prophets on the archivolt, scenes from the New Testament on the architrave, and a Madonna and Child, Saint Ambrose and Saint Petronius on the tympanum.


The Oratory of San Filippo Neri was reconstructed after the war
The Oratory of San Filippo Neri
was reconstructed after the war
Travel tip:
The Oratory of San Filippo Neri in Bologna, where Pistocchi took religious orders, is a late baroque building in Via Manzoni. It was constructed from the sacristry of the adjacent church, which is now known as the Chiesa dei Filippini Madonna di Galliera e Filippo Neri. The Oratory was suppressed in 1866 and the building was for a time used as a barracks. It was badly damaged by Allied bombing during the Second World War but was faithfully reconstructed using old photographs in 1997.

Bologna hotels from Hotels.com

More reading:

How Farinelli became music's first superstar

Senesino, the castrato who worked with Handel

Why a teacher of the finest 18th century singers died in poverty

Also on this day:

1804: The birth of Venetian revolutionary Daniele Manin

1909: The first Giro d'Italia leaves Milan

1938: The birth of former prime minister Giuliano Amato





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