Castrating Children

Though of course we have no recordings of his artistry, it was said of the great 18th-century singer Farinelli (named Carlo Broschi at birth) that he sang like an angel.  His supernaturally endowed voice had glass-breaking intensity, phenomenal range, and a ringing tone with staying power.  He achieved the daunting melismas and cadenzas of Baroque opera with ease and grace.  Reported to have had a range of 3½ octaves, the ability to sing 250 notes in a single breath, and an uncanny ability to hold one note for longer than one minute, Farinelli also performed nature-defying trills. Yes, his was the voice of the century.  But there was a tragic reason why Farinelli's voice was so extraordinary.  He was castrated at the age of ten in order for his amazing boy soprano voice to continue into adulthood.  After castration, he grew into an androgynous beauty known for playing female as well as male roles. Castration remained a practice for several centuries in...(Read Full Article)

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