Born about 1735 in Siena (and thus sometimes called Senesino), Giusto Tenducci became at age nine a castrato to preserve his singing voice. He performed at Venice in "Ginevra" in 1753 and at Naples in "Farnace" in 1756 – and presumably elsewhere in other operas in between, for he gained enough fame to be engaged in 1758 at the King’s Theatre in London. There, on 11 November, Tenducci sang Idaspe, the second man, in Galuppi’s "Attalo". The following January he participated in "Il Ciro riconoscuito" and "Il trionfo della Gloria" to critical acclaim. He toured to the Theatre Royal, Norwich, and returned to London for engagements at the King’s Theatre, the Haymarket and various concert halls. Then things went wrong. Tenducci was arrested for debt in 1761 and received compassionate benefits arranged by his cohorts. He then apparently went to Scotland but returned to London, to Covent Garden Theatre in late 1761 to sing in Arne’s "Artaxerxes", and during the rest of the 1760s he appeared at Ranelagh Gardens, Covent Garden, the Lock Hospital, the King’s Theatre, Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, Edinburgh, Covent Garden again, the King’s again, and York. He seems to have toured much more extensively than most opera singers, and he may have been fleeing creditors.
During these wanderings the singer baffled everyone by marrying Dorothea Maunsell. Her father, Thomas Maunsell, a Dublin counselor, had engaged Tenducci to give Dorothea singing lessons and ended up doing everything he could to separate the newlyweds. He interrupted Tenducci’s performances, imprisoned him and threatened his daughter with confinement in a madhouse – if we can believe the accusations in a 1767 pamphlet. Tenducci continued singing in recitals, however, and public sentiment began to swing in the couple’s favour. They went to Edinburgh, where Dorothea began a singing career herself, and in 1769 they were in London, where she sang at the Haymarket. By 1770 Tenducci, despite all his offstage adventures, was keeping up his rather erratic singing career, sometimes as a first man in opera and sometimes as a member of a chorus.
In 1771 the couple went to the Continent with Tenducci’s mother and sister, with whom he sometimes left his wife while he toured Italy making concert appearances. That was a mistake. Tenducci had not been recognizing Dorothea as his wife – because of Italian attitudes toward castrati marrying – and Dorothea, feeling doubly neglected, had a change of heart and sought refuge with William Long Kingsman in Naples. The Tenducci marriage was anulled in July 1775, by which time Dorothea was married to Kingsman, with her father’s blessing.
Tenducci was engaged by Sheridan at Drury Lane in 1776-77 and 1777-78 to sing solo and in choruses, and he appeared at various concert halls. He returned to Dublin to perform and then came back to the King’s Theatre in London, singing the title role in Gluck’s "Orfeo" in May and June 1785. But Lord Mount Edgcumbe called it ‘a performance of an old man, who had never been very capital.’ According to the "Scots Magazine" of March 1790, Tenducci died at Genoa, apparently in debt. (BDA) [EAL]