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Castrato Opera Singers: The Current State of Research

Event info

  • today from 21/10/2021 to 24/10/2021
  • place Villa Vigoni
  • lock_outlineBy invitation
  • All information regarding the event is provided under the responsibility of the coordinators.
  • Coordination

    Dr. Valentina Anzani, Bologna

    Prof. Dr. Arnold Jacobshagen, Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln


Castrato singers dominated European transnational cultural life from the 17th to the early 19th centuries as the most desired vocal performers. From Lisbon to St. Petersburg, from Stockholm to Corfu, they were the protagonists of theatre music and, in Catholic countries, church music.

Because of their mutilated physical condition, castrati occupied a liminal space in their society, but central in the development of the history of music. Their progressive disappearance during the 19th century coincided with a damnatio memoriae in musical studies that lasted almost a century. Only in recent decades has interest in the ancient castrato singers been rekindled, not only among musicologists, but also among historians of society and culture, in relation to modern interest in non-binary gender issues. Therefore, points of view on this phenomenon are currently multiplying, focusing on the artistic biographies of these singers, their vocal qualities, the music written for them, but also their private lives, their subjectivity, their position in society, medical and phoniatric aspects, philosophical and satirical perspectives as well as religious and sexual issues.

The aim of the project is to get a comprehensive overview of what it means to study in the present day a complex and interdisciplinary phenomenon such as that of the castrato singers. The participants will present the results of their recent research, the questions behind their projects and the methodology used.