Book Title: World of the Castrati : The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon
Author: Patricia Howard
Format: Paperback | 282 pages
Publication Date: 28 Jan 2010
Patrick Barbier's entertaining and authoritative book is the first full study of the subject in the context of the baroque period. Covering the lives of more than sixty singers from the end of the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, he blends history and anecdote as he examines their social origins and backgrounds, their training and debuts, their brilliant careers their relationship with society and the Church, and their decline and death.
The castrati became a legend that still fascinates us today. Thousands flocked to hear and see these singing hybrids - part man, part woman, part child - who portrayed virile heroes on the operatic stage, their soprano or contralto voices weirdly at variance with their clothes and bearing. The sole surviving scratchy recording tells us little of the extraordinary effect of those voices on their audiences - thrilling, unlike any sound produced by the normal human voice.
Illustrated with photographs and engravings, the book ranges from the glories of patronage and adulation to the darker side of a fashion that exploited the sons of poor families, denied them their manhood and left them, when they were old, to decline into poverty and loneliness. It is a story that will intrigue opera-lovers and general readers alike, superbly told by a writer who has researched his subject with the thoroughness of a true enthusiast.