It Hurts Just Thinking About It....
In 17th and 18th Century Italy, about 4,000 boys were castrated each year, from the age of eight upwards, with the aim of making a fortune as opera singers and soloists with choirs in churches and royal palaces.Tip to Jimmy Mac and Don Biaggio, our resident scholar of the period.
The castrato's voice was prized for its combination of high pitch and power - with the unbroken voice able to reach the high notes, but delivered with the strength of an adult male.
Composers were enthusiastic about the more complex musical possibilities of these voices - and music lovers turned these exotic figures into the pop idols of their day.
"The best castrati were superstars, adored by female fans. Their voices had a tremendous emotional impact on the audiences of the day," said Sarah Bardwell, director of the Handel House Museum, which is staging the exhibition.