Lucrezia Agujari

Lucrezia Agujari was a very celebrated singer, who supplied an extraordinary example of the fashion of nicknaming musicians; for, being a natural child of a noble, she was always announced in the playbills and newspapers as La Bastardina or Bastardella. Lucrezia Agujari was born at Ferrara in 1743, instructed in a convent by the Abbe Lambertini, and made her debut at Florence in 1764. Her triumph was brilliant, and she was eagerly engaged for all the principal towns, where she was enthusiastically received. She did not excel in expression, but in execution she surpassed all rivals. The extent of her register was beyond all comparison. Sacchini said he had heard her sing as high as B flat in altissimo, and she had two good octaves below; but Mozart himself heard her at Parma in 1770, and says of her that she had ‘a lovely voice, a flexible throat, and an incredibly high range’.

Ten years later, in speaking of Mara, he says, ‘She has not the good fortune to please me. She does too little to be compared to a Basterdella – though that is her peculiar style – and too much to touch the heart like an Aloysia Weber’. Leopold Mozart says of here, ‘She is not handsome nor yet ugly, but has at times a wild look in the eyes, like people who are subject to convulsions, and she is lame in one foot. Her conduct formerly was good; she has, consequently, a good name and reputation’.

Agujari made a great sensation in the carnival of 1774 at Milan in the serious opera of ‘Il Tolomeo’, by Colla, and still more in a cantata by the same composer. In 1780 she married Colla, who composed for her most of the music she sang. She sang at the Pantheon Converts for some years, from 1775, receiving a salary at one time of 100 pounds a night for singing two songs, a price which was then simply enormous. There is an amusing account of her in Mme. D’Arblay’s Memoirs of Dr. Burney. She died at Parma May 18, 1783.