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from the Santini Collection, MS 458     push button

Antonio Maria Bernacchi (1685–1756) was born, trained, and died in Bologna. He shared his singing teacher, Francesco Pistocchi, with Giovanni Battista Martini, better known today as Padre Martini, who would form in Bologna the greatest eighteenth-century social network of composers and performers. Bernacchi's career as a contralto was hugely successful. He appeared in opera houses all over Italy in the early years of the eighteenth century, and in London sang as the primo uomo in several of Handel's operas. He retired from the stage in 1738, turning his attention to teaching. In Bologna he established a school of singing, and numbered among his pupils the tenor Anton Raaf. Years later the elderly Raaf would premier the title role in Mozart's Idomeneo. Mozart was not partial to Raaf's older style of singing, writing in a letter that "the style itself, the Bernacchi school, is not to my taste."