Baroque Opera Archive

  • The legacy of the castrati has continued to invisibly affect opera even until today. As castrati disappeared, their expertise of lightness and agility went out of demand as power and expression became the new aesthetic. Still, we marvel at the chimera of the past, ambiguous creatures of an age that performed at a level we can never attain.

    The Castrati (Part 6): Modern Mythology and Unseen Influence

    The legacy of the castrati has continued to invisibly affect opera even until today. As castrati disappeared, their expertise of lightness and agility went out of demand as power and expression became the new aesthetic. Still, we marvel at the chimera of the past, ambiguous creatures of an age that performed at a level we can never attain.

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  • At their height in the late 1700s, castrati were popular all over Europe in opera seria, as well as as composers, dramatists, court performers, and teachers. By then, however, they had already begun to be scarce.

    The Castrati (Part 5): Decline of the Castrati

    At their height in the late 1700s, castrati were popular all over Europe in opera seria, as well as as composers, dramatists, court performers, and teachers. By then, however, they had already begun to be scarce.

    Continue Reading...

  • The instrument created through this partnership of altered nature and arduous nurture had a profound effect on voice training as well as a musical movement already craving for the spectacular. The unprecedented skill of the castrati demanded improvements in singing technique for all voice types. With the acceptance of the castrato voice, preferences of timbre also began to change so clear and strong voices were favored over soft and airy.

    The Castrati (Part 4): The Castrati Effect

    The instrument created through this partnership of altered nature and arduous nurture had a profound effect on voice training as well as a musical movement already craving for the spectacular. The unprecedented skill of the castrati demanded improvements in singing technique for all voice types. With the acceptance of the castrato voice, preferences of timbre also began to change so clear and strong voices were favored over soft and airy.

    Continue Reading...

  • In cursorily observing the accomplishments of the castrati it is easy to conclude that the procedure of castration does something amazing to a boy’s throat to make him an incredible vocalist. This, however, is not completely true.  Certain abnormalities caused by pre-pubertal castration, in conjunction with extensive training equipped the castrati to potentially sing in a way that cannot without these procedures be replicated.

    The Castrati (Part 3): The Castrati Advantage

    In cursorily observing the accomplishments of the castrati it is easy to conclude that the procedure of castration does something amazing to a boy’s throat to make him an incredible vocalist. This, however, is not completely true. Certain abnormalities caused by pre-pubertal castration, in conjunction with extensive training equipped the castrati to potentially sing in a way that cannot without these procedures be replicated.

    Continue Reading...

  • As musical tastes moved from polyphony to monody and operas began to be performed, castrati were initially no more favored than any other voice type: roles were assigned to whomever was available, regardless of their register.  By 1680, however, the castrati had taken over the leading and often the secondary roles in the opera.

    The Castrati (Part 2): Castrati in Opera

    As musical tastes moved from polyphony to monody and operas began to be performed, castrati were initially no more favored than any other voice type: roles were assigned to whomever was available, regardless of their register. By 1680, however, the castrati had taken over the leading and often the secondary roles in the opera.

    Continue Reading...