That Ineluctable, Strange, Desirable Thing of Star Quality


Why Italians in the 16th century castrated boys to make them into opera stars:

“…historican David Starkey tells of the ‘full horror’ of the procedure, but also adds, ‘it’s horribly like the child star of today, forced into this artificiality, forced… to deliver that ineluctable, strange, desirable thing of star quality.’”

Many came from poor homes and were castrated by their parents in the hope that their child might be successful and lift them from poverty

This castrato had a fine voice, but his chief attraction was his beauty… on the stage in woman’s dress the illusion was complete; he was ravishing. He was enclosed in a carefully-made corset and looked like a nymph; and incredible though it may seem, his breast was as beautiful as any woman’s.”

This could happen anytime before the main effects of puberty, but most boys were ‘recruited’ at age twelve or younger.”

Surgeons tried to remain anonymous, and parents made up stories about how their child fell off a horse or had some hunting accident that required castration.”

Castration for singing was understood through the lens of Catholic blood sacrifice… Sacrifice in turn was inseparable from the system of patriarchy—involving teachers, patrons, colleagues, and relatives—whereby castrated males were produced not as nonmen, as often thought nowadays, but as idealized males.”

Both Farinelli’s abnormal height and his lack of fused bones are likely related to growth delays caused by his castration. Further, the researchers discovered osteoporosis and a condition called hyperostosis frontalis interna, both of which are generally much more common in older, post-menopausal women.”


4 thoughts on “That Ineluctable, Strange, Desirable Thing of Star Quality

  1. I’ve always felt a visceral horror about the castrati, as well as castration of the developmentally disabled, FGM, and the craze 20-40 years ago of removing healthy ovaries and uteri of menopausal women (often without their consent during other elective surgery). I have to admit that I’ve become inured to the idea of the sterilization of children labeled “trans.” I certainly oppose transing kids, but familiarity with these seemingly happy fulfilled children through media has taken the edge off my emotional reaction. Yet as the history of the castrati proves, the brainwashing involved in getting the public to accept a thoroughly unacceptable concept is much older than modern media.

    Liked by 1 person

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