Mr. Garrick, the great actor, heard Caffarelli in Naples in 1764, when he was turned of sixty, and thus writes to Dr. Burney: “Yesterday we attended the ceremony of making a nun; she was the daughter of a duke, and everything was conducted with great splendor and magnificence. The consecration was performed with great solemnity, and I was very much affected; and, to crown the whole, the principal part was sung by the famous Caffarelli, who, though old, has pleased me more than all the singers I ever heard. He touched me, and it is the first time I have been touched since I came to Italy.” At this time Caffarelli had accumulated a great fortune, purchased a dukedom, and built a splendid palace at San Dorato, from which he derived his ducal title.
Over the gate he inscribed, with characteristic modesty, this inscription: “Amphion Thebas, ego domum.” * A wit of the period added, “Ille cum, sine tu.” ** Caffarelli died in 1783, leaving his title and wealth to his nephew, some of whose descendants are still living in enjoyment of the rank earned by the genius of the singer. By some of the critics of his time Caffarelli was judged to be the superior of Farinelli, though the suffrages were generally on the other side. He excelled in slow and pathetic airs as well as in the bravura style; and was unrivaled in the beauty of his voice, and in the perfection of his shake and his chromatic scales, which latter embellishment in quick movements he was the first to introduce.
* “Amphion built Thebes, I a palace.”
** “He with good reason, you without.”
When Gabrielli was on her way to England in 1765, she sang for a few nights in Venice with the celebrated Pacchierotti, a male soprano singer who took the place of Caffarelli, even as the latter filled that vacated by Farinelli. Gabrielli was inspired by the association to do her utmost, and when she sang her first aria di bravura, Pacchierotti gave himself up for lost. The astonishing swiftness, grace, and flexibility of her execution seemed to him beyond comparison; and, tearing his hair in his impetuous Italian way, he cried in despair, “Povero me, povero me! Vuesto e un portento!” ("Unfortunate man that I am, here indeed is a prodigy!”) It was