What was the point of castrating young boys to sing opera when they could just as well have a woman sing the part ?

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What was the point of castrating young boys to sing opera when they could just as well have a woman sing the part ?

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11 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The same reason they had men in drag playing the female roles in plays in those days.

Women weren’t people. They didn’t get to be singers or actors. They were property that worked in the kitchens and went places with their husbands (if they were lucky).

Of course in hindsight it seems obvious to say “why didn’t they just have a woman play the female role in the play?” but that’s just not how society worked at the time.

Anonymous 0 Comments

From the Wikipedia article on [_castrati_](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castrato):

> Women were banned by the Pauline dictum _mulieres in ecclesiis taceant_ (“let women keep silent in the churches”; see I Corinthians, ch. 14, v. 34).

Anonymous 0 Comments

A woman do the work of a man????
My god, that’s savage!!

Nay, we shall cut the balls off of the boys.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Women weren’t allowed to do it, and while boys were allowed they generally lost their range after puberty. Apparently people noticed other differences in castrati voices that kept it going after women were allowed to sing more parts, to the point that as it became less and less accepted, men started learning how to sing Countertenor to replicate it. It’s honestly pretty amazing how much more flexible the human voice is than people think!

Anonymous 0 Comments

The Catholic Church forbade women from singing in church but they were losing attendance to churches that had choirs with more parts and in general had more visual impact. This led the Catholic Church to adopt more art and castrati. They weren’t castrated for the opera–that was a benefit if they were successful. This was primarily for the church.

In general women weren’t allowed to speak or sing in Church. The castrations were usually called accidents (they weren’t). But it gave the families some assurance of income from the Church and the possibility of work in opera–but again that was not the most common usage.

And as far as the voices, they were not equivalent to a woman’s voice.

Castrati had very extensive rigorous training. They’ve exhumed castarti’s bodies and found they had very enlarged rib cages due to their breath work. It’s not simply the same as saying it’s equivalent to a female voice. they still had male bodies along with the the training. The voice was described as otherworldly. It continued into the early 20th century and there are a couple of recordings I think.

This is my knowledge from when I took music appreciation back in 2010. Hopefully it’s mostly accurate.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’m literally watching the world evolve in to a place that has no historical understanding of how we got to where we are now and how things have evolved and changed.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A woman can hit similar notes to a castrato, but a man will still have bigger lungs.

So he can sing those same notes with a more powerful voice and he can hold those notes longer (and also won’t have to break a long sequence to take a breath).

Anonymous 0 Comments

Castrati don’t sound exactly the same as women and, by and large, did not take women’s roles in opera.

Castrati started because they were rare, and they became somewhat of a novelty for the Italian aristocracy to own. They persisted in part because they had a unique vocal range and were *loud* at a time when the only way to amplify a person’s voice was through the architecture of the theater’s walls.

Castrati get the “best” of both worlds as far as the anatomy of singing is concerned. They have the size and muscle tone of a man along with the highly flexible rib cages of a woman. Those anatomical features allowed them to be much louder than an equivalent non-castrated man.

But the other part of why they persisted goes back to them being rare. Good castrati were basically born into the role and then trained extensively from when they were young enough to speak until they were old enough to perform. Paying a family to castrate one of their kids, then training that kid for over a decade was a non-trivial expense in a world where the vast majority of people could just barely manage to afford to eat. Only very wealthy aristocrats could afford castrati, which meant that there just weren’t a whole lot of them and, like any other novelty, people like seeing or owning rare things.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A woman?! Blasphemy!

Anonymous 0 Comments

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