Magazine article Opera Canada

Sacrificium: La Scuola Dei Castrati

Magazine article Opera Canada

Sacrificium: La Scuola Dei Castrati

Article excerpt

SACRIFICIUM: LA SCUOLA DEI CASTRATI

CECILIA BARTOLI

Decca: 478 1521

Cecilia Bartoli, the irrepressible Roman mezzo with the world-embracing smile and extraordinary vocal technique, is one of the more inquisitive artists on the opera scene today. During her early career she per-formed and documented all of her Mozart and Rossini repertoire, but in recent years her recording projects have taken on a musicological bent, with forays into less-familiar music by Gluck, Salieri, Vivaldi and others. This latest project focuses on "the sacrifice (castration) of hundreds of thousands of boys in the name of music." Barbaric as it may sound today, castrating prepubescent boys was common practice in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries, initially to supply high voices for church choirs (in which women were not allowed to perform). Later, as the taste for such voices in opera intensified, the cult of the castrato reached new heights. Many of the more accomplished singers were venerated--like rock stars today--and commanded exorbitant fees. …

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