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22-Sep-2017 18:49

Eunuch is a more general term, since historically many eunuchs were castrated after puberty and thus the castration had no impact on their voices.Castration as a means of subjugation, enslavement or other punishment has a very long history, dating back to ancient Sumer.This is a rare term but probably does equate to castrato.The Cardinal's brother, Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, was another early enthusiast, enquiring about castrati in 1556.Listening to the only surviving recordings of a castrato (see below), one can hear that the lower part of the voice sounds like a "super-high" tenor, with a more falsetto-like upper register above that.Castrati were rarely referred to as such: in the 18th century, the euphemism musico (pl musici) was much more generally used, although it usually carried derogatory implications; another synonym was evirato, literally meaning "emasculated".A castrato (Italian, plural: castrati) is a type of classical male singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto.The voice is produced by castration of the singer before puberty, or it occurs in one who, due to an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.

Caffarelli, who was from a wealthy family: his grandmother gave him the income from two vineyards to pay for his studies Modern endocrinology would suggest that the castrati's much-vaunted sexual prowess was more the stuff of legend than reality – in addition to lacking a hormonal (but not a socio-psychological) sex drive, a castrato's remaining genitalia will not develop in size.

By 1574 there were castrati in the Ducal court chapel at Munich, where the Kapellmeister (music director) was the famous Orlando di Lasso.

In 1589, by the bull Cum pro nostro pastorali munere, Pope Sixtus V re-organised the choir of St Peter's, Rome specifically to include castrati. Reader, if of the City, thou mayest probably have seen in the Fields of Islington or Mile-End or, If thou art in the environs of St James', thou must have observed in the Park with what Ease and Agility a cow, heavy with calf, has rose up at the command of the milkwoman's foot: thus from the mossy bank sprang the DIVINE FARINELLI.

This demanding schedule meant that, if sufficiently talented, they were able to make a debut in their mid-teens with a perfect technique and a voice of a flexibility and power no woman or ordinary male singer could match.

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Many came from poor homes and were castrated by their parents in the hope that their child might be successful and lift them from poverty (this was the case with Senesino).By the 9th century, eunuch singers were well-known (not least in the choir of Hagia Sophia) and remained so until the sack of Constantinople by the Western forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.