Bagniera [Bagnera, Baniera, Bannieri], Antonio [Antoine ]
- Lionel Sawkins
( b ?Rome, 1638; d Versailles, 1740). Swiss boy (later castrato) singer , active in France. Son of one of Louis XIV's Swiss guards, Bagniera was a Page de la Chapelle (a boy singer in the royal chapel choir) noted for the ‘prodigious volume and extreme beauty of his voice’ (Bêche). Small stature and physical deformities may have been factors in his decision to persuade his cousin, a surgeon, to castrate him in a (successful) bid to preserve his greatest asset, his voice. When Louis XIV discovered what had taken place, he threatened Bagniera with banishment, but pardoned him after intervention by the Swiss guards who pleaded that his action had only been for the best interests of the king's music. Bagniera continued to sing both in the chapel and in court operatic performances (e.g. Lully's Alceste in 1677). He became a naturalised French citizen in 1680. From a year earlier, Louis XIV employed as many as five Italian castrati at any one time, alongside Bagniera, who sang to the age of 77, retiring at the king's death in ...