Talk:Castrato/Archive 1

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Perhaps a list of parts written for/sung by castrati, as at the other vocal music pages? (Caesar in Giulio Cesare and Serse in Serse, for example.) Roscelese 15:23, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

In this sentence "The male heroic lead would often be written for a castrato singer (in the operas of Handel for example). When such operas are performed today, a woman or countertenor takes these roles." shouldn't this read "The female heroic lead ..."? I know nothing about opera, but it seems odd to have a castrato singer playing the male lead. --Lee Hunter 18:09, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC)

No, it does mean the male heroic lead. Castrati dominated opera at the time. Kinda makes me cringe, but that's the way it was.


Could someone post the MP3 of the last castrato? I think that would be a terrific addition, and it MUST be PD by now if it was done in 1914! -- SJ Zero

What I'd like to know

…is the sort of circumstances in which boys could be castrated for choirs. In what situations, for instance, did their parents allow it? Or were castrati typically chosen from church wards? The article seems to have no information about these details. I would like to better understand the method behind the cruelty. Who, exactly, can we blame for what? —RadRafe 05:13, 2 August 2005 (UTC)

no-one was castrated specifically for church choirs. The church forbade castration but it 'took advantage' of the fashion for castrati by recruiting them into its choirs anyway. Typically boys would be castrated at the instigation of their, often very poor, families in the hope that they would be succesful singers and provide for them. Roydosan 22:23, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

I am not sure if that is true. I know when Napoloen conquered the Papal States he outlawed the practice of castration, implying the church had something to do with it and certainly hadn't banned it. Andrew Riddles (talk) 23:56, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

What I'd like to know

Castrato or the male soprano is kool, but what is castration? I hope it isn't what I think it is, because if it is that, then they were wrong back then. Explain that please?

Um, yeah, it's what you think it is. Castrato, from Castration. RasputinAXP talk contribs 22:16, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

To explain it simply: those guys had their balls removed as children. That prevented their voices from ever becoming like that of an adult man.

2007-02-04 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

What I'd like to know

What were the physical implications for these guys. I heard their limbs would never stop growing and they became twisted. Throw in a picture please. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.79.229.75 (talkcontribs)

I think they were fairly normal, except they didn't mature sexually. See Castration for more information. Limbs continuing to grow definitely is not a side effect of castration, though. Mak (talk) 18:35, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

I'm quite sure your wrong. the absence of testosterone meant that the limbs (and all bones for that matter) grew indefinately, probably up until death. I also heard that it was normal for them to develop breasts but this may be false. Apparently the body of the really famous one, Firilli or something like that- anyway his body was exhumed recently so the side effects could be studied. Somebody should write another section on this because i cant be bothered plus ive never written in wiki before.

Um, did you read about castration? It isn't testosterone which causes you to stop growing, anyway. Developing breasts is a side effect of extra female hormones (progestin, estrogen, etc.) not an absence of male hormones. The medical issues should really be dealt with in the castration article anyway, the only medical issue which is really relevant to this article is that their voices didn't break and that they were larger and stronger than boys, but still had high voices (note that their vocal folds didn't continue to grow longer and thicker until they were sub-basses). Mak (talk) 21:39, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes i did, and its poor. A documentry (human mutants) on BBC's channel 4 mention castratos last year stating that 'in the absence of testosterone they grew to gigantic proportions. I think the breasts had more to do with their large lung capacitys. These guys were entertainers who sang before audiences so i think their appearence is relevent. This is the sort of info am into and enjoy reading about. i demand to see freaks and if nobody can find a picture for this page why dont you take one of yourself for us


It is not sexual maturity that stops humans from growing. After all, puberty usually ends a couple of years before you stop to grow. However, serve infections during upbringing makes people shorter. The castration of boys seam to have ended before the breakthtough of antiseptics. Under such conditions only the boys with especialy strong immune systems would have suvived. The infections they inevitably get never become serve, so they may well have become taller then average. If this is correct castrati was not extreamly tall by today’s standards. I see no reason why they would develop breasts since this IS due to female hormones. But it is possible that castrati become fat more often then others: I realy don’t know.

2007-01-08 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.


I remember seeing a documentary on castratos on PBS and they said that the reason that the arms grew to very long lengths is that the testicles are responsible for producing a hormone that stops the hormonal glands at the arm bones' ends from producing the hormone that signals the bones to keep on growing. Anyone know anything about this?24.83.178.11 10:43, 22 May 2007 (UTC)BeeCier

This is absurd. My cat is a castrato and he is small compared with most cats. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 74.101.41.148 (talk) 03:56, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

The lack of testosterone in the adolescent male castrato's body prevented the bone-joints (epiphyses) from hardening, and so both the limbs and ribs of castrati went on growing for a much longer time than is usual. The matter of the ribs continuing to grow, combined with a long period of intensive training accounted for the castrati's remarkable lung capacity, since their lungs had to fill a larger space, and their training gave them extraordinary flexibility. The castrati didn't develop real breasts, of course, but, again because of a lack of testosterone, their body fat, like the growth of their hair, came to be on a female pattern. voxclamans 21:50, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Are you sure about this? “Less masculine” does not necessary mean “more feminine”!

2007-05-31 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

Quite so, but yes, I am sure about this. --voxclamans 20:43, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

I am still suspicious about the connection between testosterone and stopping to grow. Normally, people stop to grow at the age of 18 regardless of when they underwent puberty. Castrati must have stopped to grow sooner or later: otherwise they would have become disfigured. Photos of Alessandro Moreschi don’t show a freak in this sense. They just show a person who seem to lack secondary sex characteristics. (Yes, it is he on the top if this page!)

2007-06-05 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec19/ch282/ch282f.html explains this (see the section "Symptoms and signs"). A search under "Klinefelter's syndrome" or "Kallmann's syndrome", two conditions that in some respects at least resemble eunuchism will also reveal further information on this topic. Incidentally, some other images of Moreschi show him to have been very tall in earlier life, as was his colleague Domenico Salvatori. Likewise many cartoons and other caricatures of eighteenth-century castrati, showing them as enormously tall and thin (or fat), were probably not huge exaggerations of the truth.voxclamans 14:28, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

Castrati might well have been taller than other men. In other words, tall men was over-represented among castrati. Yet there most have been some point when they stopped to grow. If their growth never stopped they would at first have become oversized and later malformed to the point of physical disability. Such a person would not had been able to work as an opera singer and would had risked to die young. When looking at contemporary portraits of castrati the only unusual thing I see is an oversized chest. Of cause, they could be beatified but if they where physically disabled that would have been visible in the poses they where portrayed. Also, all the listed famous castrati lived at least to the age of 62. About Alessandro Moreschi he died at the age of 63. I have only seen two photos of his as adult that are good enough to be recognisable. Both show only his head and part of his chest so they can’t help me to judge the proportions of his body. However, Franz Haböck who met Alessandro when he was 55 described him as being little shorter than average and having an oversized chest. If Alessandro had been disabled or have had a stoop Franz would have told that. (Franz noted that Alessandro compleatly lacked any facial hair.) In short, castrati where probably only odd-looking: not malformed in the way originally supposed.

2007-06-10 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

Yes, the bone-joints did eventually harden, and they did stop growing. There are two pictures in my book about Moreschi that show more than head and shoulders - he was never particularly "disproportioned", far from it, though the group picture of the whole Sistine Chapel choir, taken in 1898, does show him looking rather stooped (perhaps from kyphosis, it has been suggested to me). There was a tendency in castrati towards long limbs, large hands and feet, and large rib-cages (and hence lungs), but this was not universal amongst them. It is not statistically true that they had a longer lifespan than other men. I think your remark that the castrati "were odd-looking rather than malformed" is absolutely right, otherwise those thought beautiful would hardly have been the subjects of passionate interest that they certainly were.voxclamans 22:18, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Ultimately, testosterone (etc) accelerate to closure of the epiphyseal growth plates, not cause it. Look at all the castrated animals out there - there aren't cats the size of ponies! (Dlh-stablelights 09:04, 13 June 2007 (UTC))

Maybe the oversized chests of castrati was partly due to castration and partly due to their training. But why would Alessandro Moreschi have suffered from kyphosis at the age of 40!? I think he was just leaning forwards at that photo. If boys castrated before puberty did not stop to grew at the age of 18 as everyone else when did they? I would be pleased to know that.

2007-06-22 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.

Also, what was the long term effect on the brain of lack of sex hormones? Women going through menopause often experience cognitive problems. Did castrati? Women losing hormones also often develop sleep problems during menopause. Did castrati have insomnia? What about emotional maturity? Did they retain childlike personalities? Too passive and compliant? Continuing to prefer childlike toys? Poor judgment? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Skysong263 (talkcontribs) 21:07, 15 September 2009 (UTC)


Michael Jackson?

I wonder whether any doctor has gone on record admitting that he performed this operation on Michael Jackson? I wouldn't put it past his father to do the act himself, but it's fairly evident that plastic surgeons are not the only scalpel-wielders who've excised a piece of him.

Uh, no. He clearly has a chest voice. He just now speaks and mostly sings in his falsetto. A lot of people seem to confuse the concept of falsetto with the idea of castration, but that is completely and entirely false. Mak (talk) 14:59, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

His voice does not sound falsetto to me. It sounds to me like he is struggling to sing and speak in his lower register and that he could go a lot higher, but does not want people to hear that. He also had an unusual, loose-jointed way of moving his arms. His younger adult recordings also have a very child-like, angelic smile that do not look typical of a young man. Does anyone know how testosterone might figure into sleep? I know lack of hormones cause sleep disorders in women. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 74.101.41.148 (talk) 03:52, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

I have no reason to believe that Michael Jackson is a castrato. If I understand it right castrati had voices similar to that of pre-pubertal children. Michael’s voice does not sound very childlike to me: he sounds more like a man imitating a woman. The falsetto voice is probably a part of his androgynous style. Maybe even an image he cultivates… (laugh)

2007-01-09 Lena Synnerholm, Märsta, Sweden.


Go on youtube and watch the videos of the making of Thriller, where they have Michael talking a lot. His voice sure sounds like a pre-pubescent boy to me. Also, if you go to the scene where the director has him pretend to scream in pain while becoming a werewolf (later voiced over with animal growls) his screams are unearthly high. Higher than a woman could scream.

I have to add - though I'm not playing devil's advocate - that if someone were to be castrated as an adult, his voice would not change materially, as it is largely determined by the size of the larynx, which would already have grown into a man's larynx.--Dana Scheider 11/17/2008 11:12 PST —Preceding unsigned comment added by 69.17.14.247 (talk) 19:12, 17 November 2008 (UTC)


I think the portrait of Carlo Scalzi on the main page is interesting, because his body looks so much like Michael Jackson's, so very thin & the posture is similar. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Skysong263 (talkcontribs) 04:40, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

If you think Michael Jackson never spoke or sang like a man, you have probably allowed press hype to guide your opinion rather than listening to any significant amount of his work. I could refer you to many examples, but his performance as the Mayor in Ghosts is probably the best one. WillOakland (talk) 07:32, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

It would certainly put a lot of facts about Jackson into perspective, and a lot of things would make a lot of sense, if it came out that he were a castrato. Hanxu9 (talk) 13:32, 7 March 2010 (UTC)