Castration. Castrated boys (called ‘castrati’) filled the European chorus during the Baroque. Their testicles were amputated to improve their voice in the future. A crazy story!
During centuries, until the 19th century, thousands of children suffered the removal of their testicles to retain their childish voice when adults. A strange female voice that caused great admiration, especially during the Baroque, a time of exaggerations and pursuit of beauty at all costs. One of the most famous ‘castrato’ was Farinelli (Broschi), an Italian artist from the 18th century, who triumphed in European courts.
The tragic intervention used to be between 8 and 12 years old, so that they cannot produce male sex hormones, responsible for the change of the voice in men during their adolescence.
The result of such unethical surgery was a spectacular colorful voice that mixed male and female timbre. He had the power of a man voice and the lightness and precision of a woman voice. This hybrid was considered wonderful by the public at the time and numerous European choirs, including the Vatican, had castrated.
Castration of humans was never formally allowed but generally tolerated and was masked with alleged accidents or invented illnesses, even with the approbation of children parents.
With the end of the Baroque and the incorporation of women to the music scene, the voices of the ‘castrati’ disappeared from the stage, but remained alive in church choirs until well into the nineteenth century. Alesandro Moreschi , the last ‘castrati’ known, died in 1922!!
At present, their role is assumed by countertenors, who manage to sharpen their voice with a polished technique, instead of resorting to aberrant practices.
**If you have time, we recommend you Farinelli, a 1994 biographical movie about the life and career of the Italian opera singer Farinelli, considered one of the greatest castrati singers of all time. It stars Stefano Dionisi as Farinelli and was directed by the Belgian director Gérard Corbiau.
Have a nice day, Yareah readers!